***This appeared first at Arise Daily. It’s a finalist in the 2023 Selah Awards (Devotions Online category).***


The picture hung on our wall.

It was a simple portrait depicting our Savior, and as a girl of seven, I imagined this was how Jesus looked around the time he began public ministry.

When he called his disciples.

Held children on his knees.

Gave sight to the blind.

Prepared for the cross.

He appeared kind, and the framed depiction, to borrow a familiar adage, “gave a face to a name.” In truth, from a very young age, I loved him, and the image in our hallway was who I pictured when I prayed or sang happy Sunday School songs, like “Jesus Tender Shepherd” and “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”

But more than merely an oil-painted portrait—a rendering by an artist whose name I didn’t know—was the truth my parents taught me about the painter’s subject. As I’d pad out of the bathroom in Winnie the Pooh slippers, there he’d be, smiling down from high above, and I knew the words of another familiar children’s song were undeniably true.

Jesus loved me. 

And because he loved me—loved my sister and Momma and Daddy too—we could trust him. Indeed, we could tell him anything, and it was this that made the painting of Jesus particularly special.

For as far back as I can recall, our mom told us, “Girls, the Bible tells us to cast our cares upon the Lord. So, when you have a burden on your heart, something you want to pray about, write it down. Then we’ll tuck the request behind the picture of Jesus and wait for his answer.”

And we did.

Over the years, our family’s prayer concerns were taped behind Jesus’s portrait, requests only taken down when a prayer was answered, and not always even then.

If one were to peer behind the picture, she’d discover a child’s scribble, likely in bold crayon—Help me read. Or—I want a puppy.

Momma’s too, in neat cursive—Please keep Maureen safe at church camp. Or—Heal Kathleen’s headaches.

And then there were Daddy’s, his handwriting almost illegible. I have a new patient battling breast cancer. Please help me care for her. Or—We’re putting together a team for next summer’s medical mission trip to Haiti. Guide us. 

Even when requests were answered, the prayers would often remain. Momma would encourage us to add the date, noting exactly when the answer came, then return the paper to its place behind Jesus, like a stone of remembrance, at least for a season.

This literal giving of our cares and concerns to him turned what may have seemed ordinary into that which was extraordinary. Over years, we witnessed our Good Shepherd’s answers, time and time again. Sometimes they were yes. Other times, no. But he was always faithful.

As I matured from a girl of seven to a young woman of seventeen, my developing stature enabled me to gaze at the portrait of my Savior more closely. Though his was always that kind and caring face on the wall in our hallway, I saw more over the passing of time.

I saw compassion.

I understood grace.

I knew more of his forgiveness.

Most of all, I knew the old familiar lyric was true, and it made all the difference. It’s making a difference still—

Yes, Jesus loves me.

“…casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you” (I Peter 5:7 CSB).

Thank you, Sweet Savior, for your love. Thank you that even little children can come to you, know you, and believe in you. Help me guide those littles in my life to love you more. Mostly, help me teach them about your great love for them, because it makes all the difference. Amen!

Grand-daughters (and I do mean “GRAND”) Lila Grace and Emory Wren

(All chalk and pencil drawings are those of Frances Hook.)

***This blog post is dedicated in honor of my dear ‘Soul Strong’ friend Lucinda Secrest McDowell, who–even as I write–is surrounded by family, preparing to meet her Savior. (I wrote of her just two weeks ago, believing there was hope for the cancer diagnosis she’d received, never foreseeing it was as bad as it is.)***

We know Jesus can heal up until the very last moment, and… we know He will heal, even if it’s after she’s stepped through the veil. I’ve written a prayer and placed it behind a picture of Jesus that hangs in our home. Won’t you pray with me?

“Dear Jesus, please be near my precious friend Lucinda as she prepares to meet You. I know how happy she’ll be to feel Your embrace and to see her mom and dad again. But oh how we will miss her. Please be near her family too. Their hearts are grieving, and please be with Maggie, her BFF. Hold her close. I love You!”

Beautiful Lucinda, a mentor to many–daughter of the King of kings.