I always looked forward to Good Friday as a kid. We didn't have school. I didn't come from a district that had a spring break, so this was a truly good Friday in my mind growing up, because I knew we had a long weekend, with Easter Monday off as well.


That was enough to make a simple kid like me look forward to the holiday. That, and the promise of wearing a pretty Easter dress to church. Not a frilly one, mind you, like my little friends wore, because my mom's austere taste was too refined for the gaudy, ruffly dresses (that I was not-so-secretly dying for). Anyway--


I did always wonder what made it a "good" Friday.


The question was never answered sufficiently until I was older and interested in faith on my own. It's hard to internalize matters of faith until you actually, well, internalize them. You can't get by and deal with the troubles in life leaning on your parents' and grandparents' faith. It has to become yours, or it can never bear any weight. The smallest trouble blow it away like a dandelion seed on the wind, unless you have made faith part of your own life. We both know that to be true.


So when life got hard, I had to come to grips with faith. And then when that faith became my own, I was finally interested in the answers to a lot of questions I had been holding in my heart.


This was one of them.


From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour, Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"--which means "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:45-46


Jesus called out in a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last. Luke 23:46


When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:30


With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God." Mark 15:37-39


Good Friday doesn't look all that good when you look clearly at the details.


But that does not mean that God isn't using it for good. For yours, and mine. For the future, and for all time. And that is what makes it good.


Follow with me here.


Then Jesus' disciples said, "Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God."

"You believe at last!" Jesus answered. "But a time is coming and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. I have told you these things that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:29-32


Jesus clearly states that we have peace in him, and we will be scattered to our own homes. Hmmm, I notice relevance here....


But take heart, He says.


Years after this, Paul will state that we are all more than conquerors because of Jesus Christ. But in this moment, on that particular Friday, the situation looks grim. Jesus doesn't look like a conqueror, he looks pitiful--beaten and bloody and hanging to die on a cross, in a shameful (there was a curse that followed being hung on a tree) manner, fitting for the worst criminals of the Roman empire.


In that moment, Jesus doesn't look like an overcomer.


But before the pain of betrayal from a friend, before the up-all-night-sweating-blood anxiety; before the pain and humiliation of being mocked, jeered at; the agony of the flogging and crucifixion, there was a humble servant. And he was abandoned. Fully man and fully God (Lord, help us comprehend the mystery) who was So SURE that his Father was in control that he KNEW in advance that he was a conqueror. In spite of his personal feelings at that moment.


He just had to follow the plan God had already given him.


And no matter what befell him, Jesus trusted his Father.


Even when he was scared.


Even when the soldiers were putting the nails into his hands and feet.


Jesus wanted the situation to be different. He prayed, "Father if you are willing, take this cup from me..." (Luke 22.:42) meaning--God if there is ANY other way, do that instead! Jesus had fear. He was so upset he sweated blood that night in Gethsemane (which science later confirmed was a real THING under severe duress), but he kept trusting.


It is nearly impossible for modern persons like ourselves to really imagine.


What we need to see here is this: The worst possible day ever--when God himself lays down hist life to die at the hand of man--turns out to be only way we can be saved.


The worst day in the history of man, turns out to be our only hope.


Baffling, and strangely beautiful.


We don't see the good in the pain. We don't.


We don't know how pain in the moment can look like victory in the final. We just cannot think like that. But that is what Easter is all about.


That first Easter, Friday night and Saturday, Jesus friends (by this time, he had very few followers, since he looked like any old criminal hung on a cross) were walking through immense pain and sadness.


They had no idea victory was coming.


Friends, we need to live our lives like we know the end of the story--that we recognize the victory is ours. Because it is.


Don't let the circumstances in this world bring you down. Yes, there is much to fear. Yes, there is pain. Yes, there is sadness. Yes, there is virus and boredom and quarantine and illness. And we are supposed to help in whatever way we can to make lives better, when we can.


But don't get stuck in "Saturday" mode.


Sunday morning comes, and the stone rolls away, and the grave is empty.


Death and defeat do not win.


Darkness doesn't not win.


Mourning doesn't win.


Jesus wins.


We have a Savior who LIVES. And this Savior lives in us, and for us, and through us. It was a good Friday because of what comes after. Resurrection is right around the corner.


Keep hope, my friends. Take heart! And don't let go.


Have the most joyful Easter celebration ever. It was never about baskets and eggs and bunnies, but about forgiveness and rebirth and new beginnings in Christ.


Amen. So be it.


xo, Ann Marie






I am tired of this. But we are making it through. We are in the middle of a crisis. But we are doing our duty for now, and staying home.


There are many of you lovelies out there who are in full-go mode--juggling working from home and online school and diaper changes and food making and cleaning up (OMG...feeding everyone again and again....) and all of the tasks it makes to run a home and a family in a normal day. It is exhausting. Wonderful, when you look upon all of their sweet, sleeping faces before you turn in at night, but still exhausting.


It takes confidence.


It takes a lot of resources.


It takes a lot of time. It takes a ton of energy.


What it takes is endurance.


The kind of endurance that can carry a baby/toddler/clingy 5-year-old (it's been known to happen) around while you do all of the household things and get everyone what they need and where they need to go. The kind of endurance that can carry the weight of responsibility--not just of physical chores. There is a weight to entertaining the whole crew all day. A weight to trying to make someone happy. A weight of family trouble. Boredom. Irritation. Disappointment. Sadness. Anxiety. Not knowing. Fear.


Because especially as moms, we care so much, we bear a bit (or for some with misguided intentions, all) of that for our whole family--probably some for each person individually, and the family group as a whole.


And THAT is when the REAL exhaustion kicks in. Because emotional exhaustion can be worse than the physical kind.


It can be hard to keep it all together. I am saying that from experience, believe me.


I am a really emotional person. I get irritable. I freak out on my kids. I shout at my husband. I slam a door. For my sake, please act shocked. Thank you. I'm not proud about it. And let me remind you that this is a tricky time of year--the weather has been great and my windows have been open....So, I am sure my neighbors are aware of this about me, too.


When you are depleted, you have nothing to give. Your patience and nerves are shot. Nothing left in the tank.


We all know the airline safety speech about putting your own oxygen mask on first, before trying to help someone else. Why? Because we know that if you don't put yours on first, you run out of oxygen and can't actually help anyone else. We know the trope.


What about if you are an athlete about to perform at the Olympics and all you have been eating is Smarties, Fritos and Mt. Dew? Technically, these are foods. But they are not fulfilling and do not have the vitamins and minerals you will need to fuel your body. Your performance will most definitely suffer, and it will be especially difficult to recover your strength and energy after the fact. They might provide energy for a short time, but then you'll crash. Your body needs more than that.


You have heard all of this before. I have too.


So why go into it here?


Well friend, we are in for the long haul of staying home (for at least the rest of this month), social distancing, and online school. And while it can be seriously awesome, it is also exhausting. This is like the Family Time Olympics. You have to take this seriously. :)


You are going to need your strength. I am here to tell you to take your vitamins. I am telling you to put on your oxygen mask every day so you are filled up and ready.


Only watching Netflix and scrolling social media can be like eating a junk food-only diet. It's kind of like breathing in air at a high altitude with no mask on.


Seems like a good idea for a little while, then the bottom drops out. You need more.


I am not saying this kind of junk food isn't fun. We have Netflix. And we use it a lot. I love Doritos, too. I have loved me some Real Housewives...true story. And don't get me started on my love for Diet Coke. As long as it isn't your entire diet, there may still be room for this in your life. I am simply saying that your system needs something with more nutrients to make it through the day.


PRAY

Before anything else, while you are still in bed and before your feet even touch the floor, I suggest spending a moment praying. We know that a posture of gratitude changes us from the inside out. Thank God for what you have been given, and pray for strength for the day, pray for wisdom, pray for yourself. You should totally pray for yourself--if you were ever under the impression that was selfish, you are wrong. It isn't. God wants to fill up your cup so you can pour out during your day (for your people, work, whatever).


Pray for the people in your circle, too. They may not even realize they need the oxygen, so that's like helping them put their masks on. And more oxygen is always better.


READ YOUR BIBLE

Opening your Bible in the morning is a little like starting the day with super green protein smoothie and multi-vitamins. Even if you just a read a verse or two (basically a few sentences) it's like breathing 100% oxygen. It's a chance to fill your soul so you have a full reservoir for the day ahead.


Pray this before you start reading: "God, help me understand what I am reading and help me put it to good use today. Amen." (BTW--Amen just means, So be it and May it be done).

If you don't know where to start, I suggest reading Proverbs, Psalms or John. You can use a devotional to guide your time/reading, too. Even 5 or 10 minutes can make a huge difference in your day.


Don't underestimate the power of this. Not sure you believe me? Try it.


You, my dear reader, cannot pour out of an empty cup. You have tried. I have tried. It ends with tears and wanting to hide to flee from your house without even a toothbrush. I am baring my soul here for you people.... You have to be refilled every day.


Some of these days are looooong, amiright?? Get your oxygen mask on, and take your vitamins in so you have the stamina to make it through. Help others put their masks on, too. We are all going to need it.


Thinking of you all, friends.


(virtual) xo, Ann Marie

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