God is With Us: Prayer Journaling in the Quiet of the Morning

God is with us

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“God gives God. That is the gift God always ultimately gives. Because nothing is greater and we have no greater need, God gives God.”
Ann Voskamp, “The Greatest Gift”

Most days I work from 7 am — 4 pm, which is why mornings like this mean so much to me. I requested the day off — the eve of Christmas Eve, and set my alarm so I wouldn’t miss the early hour when the house and lake are at rest.

After my Advent devotion, I refilled my coffee, slipped on my Sloggers, grabbed a towel and my prayer journal, and headed to the water.

I breathed in the cold — it has been damp for days — patches of green mildew splotch the pier as evidence. Wiping off the rocking chair, I sat, leaned back, closed my eyes and listened.

The words from Matthew resonating:

Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means “God is with us.”
Matthew 1:23 (NLT)

God is with Us


I opened my prayer journal and wrote, “God is with us.”

I wrote, “We are not alone.”

And then, “I am not alone because You are with us.”

Pen down, I closed my eyes and listened again.

A song quietly rolled into my mind and on my tongue, and I sang from my childhood:

“You came from heaven to earth, to show the way.
From the earth to the cross, my debt to pay.
From the cross to the grave,
From the grave to the sky,
Lord, I lift Your name on high.”

Almost on queue, a woodpecker tapped a staccato roll on the dying branch of a Sycamore one lot over.

I looked but could not see him, but it didn’t matter because his efforts echoed across the lake like a reticent drummer boy.

He beat the song of the coming King.

“Come, they told me,
Pa rum pum pum pum
Our new born King to see,
Pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring,
Pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King,
Pa rum pum pum pum,
Ra pum pum pum,
Ra pum pum pum”

All of God’s creation rejoices over its Creator all the time — even this woodpecker unknowingly took part in God’s message of His Son.

Of the season.
Of Christ.

…let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.
Psalm 96:12 (NIV)

And again, I cried. I cry so much these days. I’m a waterfall — anytime, anywhere.

I began writing again … praying, really. My journals are written prayers because there is no other way for me to stay focused in a broken world.

Prayers of thankfulness for the glorious free gift of His Son.

God is with Us - Prayer Journaling“Our new born King to see,…”

I write prayers for healing and comfort.
Prayers for provision and peace.
Prayers for unmet expectations and contentment through it all.

As I finished writing, I heard the lake waking up — a car started, passing over the dam minutes later. Voices carried through the trees and across the water.

And once again, I thanked God for the gift of living here — on this lake, in this place.

The gift of family and friends.
The gift of today.

But most especially, Jesus.

“God is with us.”

“Lord I lift your name on high.”

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Heather Sanders

40 thoughts on “God is With Us: Prayer Journaling in the Quiet of the Morning”

  1. BWilson says:

    Beautiful! Thank you for sharing your words and wisdom with us all.

  2. Nancy M says:

    Thank you for your post.
    Merry Christmas to you and all you hold dear.

  3. andrea says:

    so wonderful! thank you for sharing.

  4. Gwynne Johnson says:

    Beautifully expressed! Thankful with you for places of liquid serenity! Merry Christmas!

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Gwynne Johnson — Oooh, I love the visual of “liquid serenity” — so very, very true!

  5. tcmullinax says:

    Beautiful post, Heather. I must say, I read it rather quickly, as I was looking for a new picture of baby Nora! It’s hard not to impose now that I know she’s here!

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      tcmullinax — I assure you, there will be many more. That said, there are plenty over on my Instagram. 😉

  6. Mary says:

    Love this! Thank you.

  7. Sara says:

    This let me in tears. Life gets in the way of stopping and appreciating God’s creation and the birth and sacrifice of His son far too often, and I needed the friendly reminder and the hymns so very much this morning. Thank you Heather! Have the merriest of Christmases!

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Sara — Each year I struggle with allowing Christmas to completely overwhelm me. Even when I make every effort, there is still so much stress and “requirements” at this time of year that can quickly steal the joy. I hope you had a joy-filled Christmas! Blessings! Happy New Year!

  8. Debbie says:

    This post makes me long for the days following the holidays, when time slows down and my mind and heart can think again.

    The quiet of the mornings are my favorites.

    Merry Christmas Heather!

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      I hope you had a Merry Christmas, Debbie! And yes, those quiet mornings are SUCH a blessing!

  9. Paulette says:

    Thank you for this beautiful reminder about this season! As I was reading, I thought of Mary and what the wonder of her Baby’s birth meant to her. I’m so happy for you and where you are living! Love you!

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Paulette — I thought of that too – in those last couple of days of reading. How overwhelming it must have been. My goodness, God must have completely covered her in that peace that passes all understanding. She was so very young and it was such an enormous revelation. Love you too!

    2. CindyK says:

      I listen to this song each year around this time. It is from the prayer of Mary in Luke 2. May my soul magnify the Lord when He gives me things that are way too big for me to handle. 🙂

      1. Heather Sanders says:

        Thanks, CindyK — I’ll check it out on my break!

  10. Monica B. says:

    Merry Christmas! I appreciate you sharing we are not alone, you are not alone. This reminds me that I’m not alone, which I need to read because I tend to feel otherwise at times. My favorite of all time is “…Pa rum pum pun pum…” I read “God is with us”, and my eyes fill with tears and I feel the Holy presence. Heather, thank you for this beautiful gift of remembering. Many wonderful blessings to you and your family!

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Monica B. — You are so very welcome. Thank YOU for sharing your heart. I needed to write that I wasn’t alone because I too needed to know it. I write what my heart needs to hear, and I’m so thankful when it touches another’s heart. Blessings to you in this coming new year!

  11. Lesa says:

    I too am doing an advent devo and what a difference it makes in this busy time of year! To make a focused effort to remember the why of it all:). You reminded me of wanting an outside setting for devotional time, thank you:). Merry christmas and enjoy the “nuggles” as my grand puts it:)

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Lesa – I AM enjoying the “nuggles” – heh heh – that’s adorable! Happy New Year!

  12. DeeAnn says:

    Thank you for sharing your life….. I gain something for myself out of each post. Love you sister!

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Love you, DeeAnn! Thank you for being such a sweet, strong encourager in my life (and in so many others, I know). I hope you had a Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

  13. CindyK says:

    When we slow down we can see He is with us much more clearly. Be still and know that I am God comes to mind. The creation shouts His praise. My son is playing the drums and singing, “The Little Drummer Boy” on Christmas Eve this year. Proud Momma. I seem to be thanking our God for ‘the gift of an ordinary day’ which is a term I heard by somone else who wrote a book with the same title.

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      CindyK“The gift of an ordinary day.” – I like that a lot! Thank YOU for sharing! Blessings!

  14. Carolyn says:

    Heather, you make it so easy for us to be right there with you with your God-given talent of being able to include us, proving we are not alone.

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Carolyn — Thank you for that sweet encouragement. I would appreciate any prayers you have that the Lord would always give me words that glorify Him and touch others. Otherwise, what point is there to write? Blessings! Happy New Year!

  15. LeeNJ says:

    I lost my wife of 55 years the end of October. Do I feel alone? You bet. Am I alone? Not on your life! Thank you for the reminder.

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      LeeNJ — Jeff and I are coming up on our 22nd. My parents will celebrate their 45th in a few months, and my grandmother this Christmas spoke how it would have been her and my grandfather’s 67th year (we lost him 4 Christmas seasons ago). I cannot fathom losing a spouse of that many years (what a legacy of love you two created together), but I’m so thankful we are not alone – despite how it can feel. I hope you had a beautiful Christmas, and I wish you a Happy New Year.

  16. Simone says:


  17. Laura says:

    Thank you for this post. This has been a hard year for our family and I find that I cry a lot too. I think sometimes I cry from being overwhelmed of His grace and love for me and my family. Your post today made me think of this clip I saw years ago of Louis Giglios mashup of Stars and Whales. Here is the link on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zWKm-LZWm4. If you’ve never seen it, watch to the end. Merry Christmas from the mountains of NC!

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Laura — – Yes, I understand that feeling of being “overwhelmed of His grace and love”. I’ve seen the Louis Giglios YouTube but not the mashup. I’ll check it out! I hope you had a very Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

  18. Dianne Bell says:

    Heather, Thank you for sharing your words, your feelings, and your tears. Your words help me now, as I’ve been ill for over two weeks and feel so weak physically and mentally. Hard time of year dealing with the loss of those I cherish the most. But, I rejoice in the birth of our Savior and I do know that his goodness will follow me always. Blessings to you and your dear family and new granddaughter. Merry Christmas!

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Dianne — I know that illness can wear on us in every aspect – physically, mentally and emotionally. Adding that to an already emotion-prone time of year is difficult. So, I’m so glad we have the birth of Jesus to wrap our hearts around. Knowing He came to us, for us, to work through us – what a mighty God we serve. Blessings to you too!

  19. Alicia says:

    This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing these intimate thoughts with us all.

  20. Holly in Houston says:

    Beautiful. So glad you are back. Thank you for sharing.

  21. Mryna says:

    Not a religious person at all but practice mindfulness with other writings etc. to focus on the present and be aware of a greater presence through which we are all connected. Just my rambling way of same goal – slightly different route. I like checking your site for other perspectives. Glad to see you are back to blogging.

    You bring suspense to your post which I why I’m commenting. Your lead into your post had me all excited for you that you were going for a bracing morning swim! You had your towel and were heading toward that lake ! To heck with the cold just jump in and breathe 🙂 I had a good laugh at myself. Thank you All the best in 2017!

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Myrna — I’m glad you chimed in, and the next time I take the “polar” plunge, I’ll think of you. Although, to be honest, it’s more of a gasp than a breath!

  22. Ann says:

    Congratulations on being a grandmother! So glad you are blogging again, your writing has a whole new quality to it,( you seem to be more engaged , and at peace with yourself) just beautiful. Enjoy your day – Also the new blog is perfect!

    1. Heather Sanders says:

      Ann — Thank you. It is my true hope that the Lord will give me something worthy of y’all’s time and attention. And thanks for the encouragement on the new blog. It feels like home. I love it too. Blessings!

  23. Nicole says:

    Thank you Heather for such a beautiful and emotional post. It is a great reminder of mornings in winter season.

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