The God Who Sees Me- El Roi

I stood alone in our walk-in closet as tears gathered in my eyes. It was Saturday morning at the end of what was arguably the most difficult week of parenting I had experienced (and that’s saying something, because we’ve had some doozies around here!).

Parenting children with a history of trauma involves an emotional whiplash that cannot be succinctly described in words.

All I can say is, if you know, you know.

It had been a draining last few days, and this morning was shaping up to be more of the same. But as I stood in the closet pulling laundry from my hamper, the Lord brought to mind a picture of a woman alone in the wilderness- Hagar from the Old Testament. When I think of Hagar, the words that immediately come to mind are desperation, isolation, and being found. 

Hagar had fled from her mistress, Sarai (later known as Sarah, Abraham’s wife) and was experiencing one of the darkest times in her life. In a nutshell, she was hopeless and alone, and the angel of the Lord had come and spoken to her about the son she would have.

Well, on that Saturday morning, I was neither in the wilderness, nor was I having any more sons, but I was hiding out in my closet, and like Hagar, I was feeling alone and downhearted.

As things typically go, someone needed Mom, and I pulled it together to go through the motions of parenting for the next several hours. I still had Hagar on the brain, so when I had a few minutes to myself, I opened my Bible app and searched her name.

Hagar is mentioned in a few different places in the Bible, primarily in the book of Genesis. I dug into the first passage looking for more of a connection. What I wasn’t expecting to find was another name for God- one that I couldn’t help but share.

Genesis 16:13 says, “Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the Lord, who had spoken to her. She said, ‘You are the God who sees me’”…  (Some translations use the Hebrew words “El-Roi”)

The God who sees me.

Isn’t that perfection for the mom who is feeling isolated and at the end of her rope?

My God is the God who sees me. El Roi.

I believe it was the kindness of God that brought the story of Hagar to my mind that day. He knew how much I needed to be reminded that He, God, sees me.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, insignificant, or just plain worn-out, please find hope in these words-

The God who created the universe, Immanuel, God with us, also goes by another name- El Roi, the God who sees me.

He sees you, too.

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Immanuel Today

Matthew 1:23 “…She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”

When I feel overwhelmed by the circumstances of life, You are right there with me. I can talk with You about it.

When I hear the best news and I’m so overjoyed, You are right there with me. I can talk with You about it.

When I am grieving a loss that I can barely wrap my mind around, You are right there with me. I can talk with You about it.

When I’m feeling isolated and it seems that no one recognizes what I’m going through, You are right there. With me. I can talk with You about it.

When I’m full of shame and want to hide, You are right there with me. I can talk with You about it.

When my heart is broken by the actions of others, You are right there with me. I can talk with You about it.

When I’m afraid for the future and unsure of my next move, You are right there with me. I can talk with You about it.

When I’m sick, and sad, and so very lonely, You are right there with me. I can talk with You about it.

When I’m filled with so much anger that I can hardly see straight, You are right there with me. I can talk with You about it.

When everything seems to work out just right, You are right there with me. I can talk with You about it.

When I am all alone and the silence is deafening, You are right there- with me. I can talk with You about it.

When things seem hopeless and I don’t know how I will go on, You are right there with me. I can talk with You about it.

When I am scared, You are right there with me. I can talk with You about it.

When I know I need to forgive but it’s just so hard, You are right there with me. I can talk with You about it.

When everything around me feels frustrating, You are right there with me. I can talk with You about it.

When I’m in a group but still feel lonely, You are right there with me. I can talk with You about it.

When I fear we will run out or there won’t be enough, You are right there with me. I can talk with You about it.

When I’m mindlessly scrolling, somehow looking for fulfillment, You are right there with me. I can talk with You about it.

When I have a personal victory and I’m feeling triumphant, You are right there with me. I can talk with you about it.

When I feel like I am invisible, You are right there. With me. I can talk with You about it.

When my spiritual walk has become stagnant and neglected, You are right there with me. I can talk with You about it.

When I’m trying my best, but I just feel inadequate, You are right there with me. I can talk with You about it. 

When I am able to have peace in the middle of hard circumstances, You are right there with me. I can talk with you about it.

Thank you, Jesus, Immanuel, for Your presence today.

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.”  Romans 15:13

Used-to Traditions

I remember so many years of having a giddy feeling in my stomach the first few days of November because I knew what was coming at the end of the month- Thanksgiving with my extended family! It’s hard to put into words how important that event was to me.

My youngest memories are filled with Thanksgivings at my grandparent’s house. There would be three, maybe four, tables lined up end to end across the dining room and living room. The dish patterns didn’t match as you progressed from one table to the next, and that didn’t matter one bit. Chairs, an organ bench, and a step-stool were placed strategically around so that every place setting had some type of a seat.

When we were teens, we helped prepare the food in my grandma’s kitchen, and when we became young adults with kitchens of our own, we organized who would bring what. There was always a flurry of activity as we rushed our casseroles from the front door to the kitchen. The smell of roasted turkey emanated from the pass-through counter and filled the entire house.

It was always a highlight to see my cousins and my aunt and uncle. When they were little, the cousins and my younger siblings would run around the outside of the house playing “Parents Can’t See Us” while my sister and I would get started on the mountain of dishes. We didn’t mind at all! We would take shifts washing and drying with my aunt, my mom, and my grandma, all the while catching up on life. The kids would play for hours while we visited with the adults.

Sometimes we would all take a walk down to the local park. Everyone was stuffed from dinner, but we knew there was a table full of pies waiting for us when we got back. We always had pumpkin and apple. My specialty was pecan. There would usually be some type of chocolate cream and often a key lime. Some years there would be birthday cake, too, because my cousin’s birthday was the 27th and it often fell on Thanksgiving day.

After all the dessert dishes had been cleaned up, washing and drying in shifts again, we would sit down with the Black Friday sale papers. The newspaper for the day was inches thick, stuffed with ads from every store around, and we would take turns looking through each one and planning out our strategy for the following day.

There was no sweeter time in my life than those Thanksgiving days with my grandparents, surrounded by people who loved unconditionally. No matter what, we were family. Sitting at the table talking with my cousins, laughing with my aunt as we realized we were always the last two eating, those are the memories that I can feel deep in my soul if I allow myself to turn back the clock. It was so devastating to me when we were no longer able to participate.

This year, despite valiant efforts to make things as close to normal as possible, Thanksgiving will look different for so many. Long-standing traditions will be altered and tweaked. Empty chairs, strikingly painful.

“It’s okay to have used-to traditions.” Those unknowingly prophetic words were spoken by a sweet, older friend as we were all sharing memories during a Christmas party last year.

She spoke with the authority of one who had realized the joy of releasing a tight grip on how things should be, how they had always been.

She explained how over her many years, holiday traditions had changed quite a bit as her children grew, her family returned from the mission field, her husband went to heaven.

She encouraged us to find joy in the remembering. She inspired us to look back with fondness at the memories that were made, and if the time should come when our traditions were disrupted, to embrace what is present with an open heart.

I believe it was God’s kindness that prompted her to share those wise words with us just a few months before our world would be transformed.

It’s okay to have used-to traditions.

It’s okay to grieve what isn’t, and it’s okay to find happiness in what is.

It can be a process, and that’s okay, too.

It took me years to be able to open my heart, relish my memories, and find more joy than sorrow as I put them in print.

May we extend grace, hope, and kindness to all this holiday season.

Rev. 21:4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain…”

Of Limes and Hearts

Friday night is taco night at our house, and a couple Fridays ago I was making guacamole. I used the pestle to mash the avocados in my bowl and added some diced tomato and onion and a big handful of cilantro. Next step- lime juice.

I had chosen an oval-shaped lime because, according to one of those kitchen hacks seen on Facebook, a lime that looks like an oval is juicier than a more round one.

Anyway, I sliced open my lime. It was a little tough to cut, but I quartered it and then divided it into eighths to make it easier to hand-squeeze.

Have you ever cut into a lemon or a lime and found it to be dry on the inside? Well, that’s how this one was. Oval or no oval, it was stiff and juiceless.

As I attempted to squeeze a couple drops of juice from my dried-out lime wedges, I was surprised when this thought crossed my mind-

“My heart is like this sometimes.”

We had lime-less guac that night, and I had something to mull over.

On the outside, the lime that I had chosen looked exactly like it should have. In fact, on the chance that what I had seen about picking a good lime could be trusted, its shape indicated that it would be super juicy. So what went wrong?

I did a search for “Why are limes dry on the inside?” and what I found fit perfectly with my self-evaluative metaphor.

A lack of watering and sufficiently fertilizing the roots of the tree when the fruit is developing causes lemons and limes to be dry. In other words, the problem goes further back than just the quality of the actual piece of fruit. It traces all the way back to the roots of the tree responsible for producing that fruit.

So how does that dried-out lime and it’s causation apply to my story?

Well, I’m really good at going through the motions in life. I can look the part. If someone were to see me walking my children into church, they might get the impression that I’m a godly mom. And if they saw pictures of my smiling family on social media, they might admire such a happy group. And of course, I get bonus points for being an adoptive mom, right?

But what does the condition of my heart look like? 

How do I treat my children and my husband? 

What is the status of my relationship with the Lord?

In Luke 6:45, the Bible says, “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.”

According to this verse, what comes out of my mouth shows the state of my heart. I can appear a certain way on the outside, just like my lime, but when adversity or irritations come my way, my response indicates the true disposition of my heart.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

Along the same lines, when we feel pressured or squeezed by the demands of life, do I have anything helpful to contribute? Do I edify those around me or am I devoid of encouragement? Am I able to share the truth of God’s Word, or am I left staring blankly when someone is in need of biblical wisdom?

Am I attending to the roots of my spiritual life in order to develop fruit that is genuine?

Just like the lime tree whose roots are watered and fertilized, I need to spend time allowing God to nourish my soul if I want fruit that is effective. It’s so easy to either neglect my time in His Word or rush hurriedly through reading, in order to meet a quota, but fail to stop and listen to what God might be trying to teach me.

I really like these words from Paul-

‬‬“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”

Ephesians 3:16-19 NLT‬‬

So here’s my goal- to make sure to take the time to develop strong roots that will bring about a greater understanding of God’s love.

I want to bear fruit that does more than just look the part; I want to be authentic.

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah gives great instruction when he says, “Blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and their confidence.”

This is the way to never stop producing fruit.

“But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.”
‭Jeremiah‬ ‭17:7-8‬ ‭NLT

You Are Valuable!

Show of hands, how many moms out there have found that your identity has gotten swallowed up in your role as a caregiver? And by identity, I’m talking about your feelings of personal value.

It’s so easy to fall into the trap of finding my significance only in my status as a mom. 

I am needed, I am wanted (most of the time), I am actually necessary to the well-being of a number of people. 

But what happens to my feelings of self-worth when I’m not at the top of my game?

  • When I find myself running to the grocery store literally every day just to make dinner. (For some reason right now I can’t wrap my mind around planning a week’s worth of meals.) 
  • When I realize I desperately need to catch up on laundry despite the fact that my youngest might be on day three of the same outfit. (Does pool time count as bath time?)
  • When I exhaustedly snap at my children after staying up too late too many days in a row trying to soak in some alone time. (It always seems so right at 12:30 a.m.)

I could continue with my list of shortcomings and deficiencies, but you get the idea.

If my worth is based on my performance as a mom, it would fluctuate like a roller coaster racing from pride and arrogance to shame and self-loathing.

Fortunately God has something to say about this. I am valued for who I am, not for the job I do in my role as Mom.

Jeremiah 31:3b says, “…I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.”

Luke 12:6-7 “What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them.  And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”

No strings attached.

No mention of accomplishments or successes.

I am valuable simply because I am God’s creation. 

Should I strive to do my best? Of course! But even when I don’t, He is there with grace and kindness for me that are not dependent upon my performance.

They are a gift simply because He loves me, the me of my first name.

Psalm 139:16-18a

You saw me before I was born.

    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.

Every moment was laid out

    before a single day had passed.

How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.

    They cannot be numbered!

I can’t even count them;

    they outnumber the grains of sand!

*We usually think of these verses in the context of our children, so take a minute to go back and read them one more time with yourself in mind.

So take heart, friend.

You are valued, not because you are someone’s mom, but simply because you are (insert your name here).

His Words

Photo by John-Mark Smith on

Psalm 51:10 & 17 “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me…The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

Ezekiel 36:26 “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”

I John 4:7-8  “Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Philippians 2:1-5  “Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”

I Corinthians 13  “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

Give Grace and Be Kind

I’ve started the habit of carving out thirty minutes each day to write words. Any words will do, as long as I am typing and they are appearing on the screen. Most of the time, it’s my favorite thing to do all day. There are days when I have so many words that they are tripping over each other trying to get out. Other days I have none and I have to dig deep to formulate a sentence. Today was one of those days. I think the heaviness of all that is going on in our culture right now has me at a loss.

“Lord, give me words today.”

And as I sat down and flipped open my laptop, these powerful phrases came to mind: Give grace and be kind.

Wow, considering the morning we had at our house, those words are a timely reminder!

I have found that giving grace is not my go-to response. Criticising, questioning, jumping to conclusions, assigning intentions- those actions have created well-worn neural pathways in my brain. My reflex tends to be to show irritation first and then to evaluate the situation. More often than not, I end up regretting my actions/reactions. Showing grace would have been a much better response right from the jump.

Give grace and be kind.

These days, there are so many opportunities to be kind both within my home and as I venture out into the post-quarantine world. It’s much easier to show kindness when I remember:

  • Most people are trying their best (and if they’re not, give grace)
  • We are all dealing with situations that are unfamiliar and unprecedented
  • Sometimes, the day is just a struggle.
  • Kindness can transform a negative situation into a positive one

I’ve been reading Romans 12 this week, and the first part of verse 2 really stood out to me in light of the words, “give grace and be kind”. Here’s what it says:

 “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” (NLT)

So that’s my prayer, that God would transform me into a new person by changing the way that I think. It’s one that I have to pray hourly, if not minute by minute.

One last thing for those who beat yourself up when you make a mistake.

First, look in the mirror. Then, give grace and be kind. 

Lighting the Darkness

*May is Mental Health Awareness month and I wanted to share this little piece of fiction. If by chance you relate to the girl in this story, please talk to a trusted friend or counselor. This piece is not meant to replace medical advice, nor is it meant to minimize an arduous process. It was simply written to communicate the power of community and the resilience of the human spirit.

She sat alone in the dark.

Photo by Flora Westbrook on

The longer she stayed, the more comfortable the darkness felt. If only she could stay here forever. Her strong sense of fight or flight had caused her to flee into this bleak place. It felt empty, just like her heart. She was tired. She was worn. She had nothing left to give. She imagined herself a brown, brittle plant rising up from the center of cracked, hardened dirt. Dry as a bone. Alone, tired- no exhausted, and hopelessly overwhelmed by the inclination to just stay in the darkness.

Photo by Raphael Brasileiro on

Everyday she forced herself to set the darkness aside, to push the curtain back temporarily so that she could meet the needs of those who would pull from her what little life she could muster. Daily she went through the motions until all was accomplished and she could reenter the darkness. She sank into the comfort of familiarity. Each time she returned to this place, the black seemed blacker, but the fear seemed less ominous.

This fact frightened her.

She knew in her heart that she needed to fight. She just didn’t have much fight left.

Photo by cottonbro on

One day, on a whim, she gathered up her courage and invited her friend into her darkness. 

She felt uncomfortable, exposed, vulnerable. 

They sat there together. 

There was silence and then words came.

She shared her thoughts, her struggles, her disappointments.

Her friend engaged.

No shame, no pity, just safety.

A shift was taking place. 

The darkness didn’t hold the same sway over her the next time she entered it. In a strange sort of way, the familiarity was lacking. She rose to examine this dreary place a little more closely.

She lifted open a blind and a shaft of light streaked across the floor. Shielding her eyes, she recoiled but quickly acclimated. She reached up and twisted the blinds open just a bit more. The room filled with light. She started to close the blinds again, but she wasn’t satisfied with this darkness anymore. It had lost its grip on her. 

She resisted the urge to go back there. It was a daily struggle.

She began to open her heart to music. She read Scripture. She nourished her soul with creativity. She sought out wise counsel. She gave priority to her physical needs. She challenged herself. She slept.

The heart that had seemed so hardened and dry was becoming supple and soft. She started to flourish.

Photo by Oleg Magni on

Her joy was evident to those around her. 

She embraced hope and peace. 

The curtain of darkness had been replaced with a colorful scarf that wrapped around each moment of her day. 

She was living.

Ephesians 1:18  “I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.”

Photo by Pixabay on

He is For You

Have you heard the new-ish song, “The Blessing”, put out by Elevation Church a few months ago? The first time I heard it, I couldn’t get enough of it and played it over and over about a million times. 

(Here’s the link if you want to take a listen.)

When it gets to the part that says, “In your weeping and rejoicing, He is for you, He is for you, He is for you…” (they seriously repeat it so many times!) I often get a bit of a lump in my throat. It almost sounds too good to be true.

When you’re the mom, it doesn’t always feel like someone is for you.

You are for them. 

You take care of them.

You feed them.

You help them maneuver the events of their days.

But where do you turn when life seems so big and so hard and you’re the one who’s supposed to be holding everyone else up? 

As a mom of children with trauma in their background, there are times when I am so emotionally and physically drained that finishing the day seems insurmountable.  Often I’ll close myself in my room, and with earbuds in, listen to “The Blessing”. My trickle of tears turns into a stream as the words, “HE IS FOR YOU,” drift across my raw heart. I just can’t believe it. To think that God, the one who is maintaining the entire universe, is for me? He sees me. He sees what I’m dealing with. He not only loves my children, but He loves me and He is for me.

More often than not, that is just the shot in the arm that I need to help me take a deep breath, dry my tears, reapply the eye makeup, and go on to face my world. 

Are you a mom who is struggling to keep it all together? Are you lonely? Feeling overwhelmed? 

Remember, He is for you.

And here’s the proof-

Psalm 56:8-9  “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help. This I know: God is on my side!”

Psalm 121:8 “The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.”

Ezekiel 36:9a See, I care about you, and I will pay attention to you.”

So let me leave you with the blessing found in Numbers 6:24-26

“The Lord bless you

    and keep you;

the Lord make his face shine on you

    and be gracious to you;

 the Lord turn his face toward you

and give you peace.”

How Does God Feel About You?

How does God feel about you? Have you ever pondered that?

That was the first discussion question during Bible study this week. When our leader verbalized it over Zoom, I silently hoped that she wouldn’t call on me.

She did.

I had a hard time coming up with an answer, at least one that I wanted to share with the group.

It’s easy to assign to God the feelings that I have about myself.

I see my weaknesses and inconsistencies, my impatience and my lack of self-control. The list could go on, but it’s not a very pretty rabbit hole. 

Why do I go directly to the negatives and deficiencies?

When I think about each of my children, my first thought is not to envision their negative qualities. I think of their smart minds, their kind hearts, their fun personalities, their diligence, and every other great quality that makes them who they are. Are they perfect? No. Could I list some negatives? Absolutely.

But as their mom, when I think of each one of them, I go right for the positives.

In Matthew 7:9-11, Jesus compared earthly parenting with heavenly Father parenting:

 “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

This passage is talking specifically about how we can trust God to meet our needs, but I wonder if we can transfer the same ratio of “parent care vs. God’s care” to how God views us. If we immediately think of the best in our children, wouldn’t God immediately think the best of us? 
This is just my speculation, but definitely something to think about.

So what does the Bible actually tell us about God’s feelings toward us? 

Here are just a few verses:

Psalm 139:17-18 “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered! I can’t even count them; they outnumber the grains of sand!”

Zephaniah 3:17 “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

I John 3:1a “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!”

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Did you catch those words?

Precious, delight, gladness, very much love, masterpiece

Wow, to the God of the universe that’s what we are!

So now take a minute and ask yourself the question again…

How does God feel about you?  

Did you go to the positives first? 

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease.Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:22-23