Joy In The Midst


Winni Morning-0021

So, our well pump stopped working on Saturday afternoon, leaving us without any water. Oh the joys of living in a rural area!

Why do these things always happen on the weekends?

A big storm was rapidly approaching, so Doug immediately put in a call to the emergency number for our local well company.

Apparently, “emergency number” means, “We’ll see you first thing Monday morning.”

Of course, they said they could come out on Sunday, but the price would be double what it normally is and it basically amounted to the cost of our son’s spring semester of college.

Clearly, we needed to weigh our options about where to stay until Monday. Eventually, it was decided that all five of us would descend on the very small home that my brother is currently care-taking while the owner is wintering in sunny Florida. (What a smart man).

Mill Falls 2-0014

It is hard to detect tone of voice via text, but I definitely sensed a certain panic in Jeff’s reply. He asked me to give him a minute to see what he could do.

Long story short, he secured and paid for two lovely rooms at one of the many local inns in our small town, complete with wonderful lakeside view!

Problem (beautifully!) solved! (Our neighbor graciously agreed to watch Buddy for us).

Now, I would like to tell you that I handled this latest inconvenience with peace, calm, and joy.

Winni Morning-0015

Not necessarily.

The fact that one of our businesses closed in November has made things very tight financially. (Not complaining, just stating a fact. He has provided abundantly for us in the midst of it all and we are grateful). So the prospect of having to get our well pump replaced felt daunting and a little heartrending; especially for my husband, who is very tired.

Before we knew how this would all play out, I was throwing some clothes into my luggage and trying not to cry as I talked it out with Jesus, “Really, Lord?” I asked. “You know how tough things are. I don’t get it. Why now? This is the worst possible time for something like this to happen.”

How quickly we forget.

Back in November, I read one of Ann Voskamp’s blog posts. She had declared November to the “November Niagara Of Thanks.” She challenged her readers to list 1000 gifts in the month of November alone, reminding us that the depth of our joy is directly tied to the depth of our gratitude.

She assured us that this was do-able. We just needed to list roughly 33 gifts a day to make it to 1000 by the end of the month.

I knew I needed to do this, as life was hard and a fresh perspective on all the ways He shows His love to me was much needed. I read that blog post on November 10th, so I was determined to catch up that very day. I simply needed to list 333 gifts in one day! So, I grabbed a fresh notebook and got to work!

Mill Falls 2-0068

I wrote #333 before midnight that night…and completed the 1000th gift before Thanksgiving. I am still writing down all the gifts, and I am approaching #1500. Try it for yourself. Your joy will increase one hundredfold, I promise!

His Presence…and His endless, lovely, tailor-made gifts are everywhere. All we need are eyes to see.

Mill Falls-0020

Despite the stress of that particular season, my joy and my peace were abundant because my prime focus was definitely not on my problems, but on the One who controls all things and loves me with a perfect, fiery love.

As I continued to pack, I resolved to still count my gifts, right there in the midst of a house with no water.

My mind cleared, my spirits lifted, and my attitude improved dramatically.

Mill Falls 2-0013

Doug, Josh, Julia, my mom, and me threw our luggage into the car, got some takeout, checked into our rooms and had a carpet picnic for dinner in one of the rooms while the snow swirled outside.

The inn where were were staying was beautiful and cozy.

Mill Falls-0019
Mill Falls-0009
Mill Falls-0002

Mill Falls-0030It was the perfect place to ride out the big snowstorm that blew through town. We were toasty warm, very comfortable, had plenty of running water, and best of all, we were all together.

Over the next two days, we talked, laughed, used the pool and the hot tub, and I had plenty of opportunities to take photos. What started out as a stressful situation turned out to be a sweet time in a lovely place.

Mill Falls 2-0005
Mill Falls 2-0024
Mill Falls 2-0006-2

Mill Falls 2-0044

Mill Falls 2-0056
Mill Falls 2-0047
Mill Falls 2-0019

Mill Falls 2-0017
Mill Falls 2-0022

How He delights to give us good gifts, even the midst of the mess.

Each night, I fell asleep watching the twinkling white Christmas lights on the trees outside our window, counting my blessings and thanking Him for His lavish provision.

This morning, it only took two hours for our well to be fixed.

It was glorious to have fresh, running water once more! I will never take it for granted again!

By 11:00, we were all home.

At 1:00, one of my crowns was pulled right out of my mouth after I ate one of my son’s sour cherry gummy bears. I have an appointment with the dentist on Wednesday morning.

At 4:30, our daughter came into the house and announced that her car would not start.

Is it 2016 yet? 🙂

 

 

4 Comments

Filed under Devotions

The Many Faces Of Buddy


Ten years ago, we got a puppy named Buddy.

He is a Bichon Frise and he was 5 pounds of furry, white cuteness.

Buddy0000

He was playful, fun, sweet-natured, and energetic. He may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but we all love him.

All of us except my husband, who tolerates Buddy at best.

Guess who Buddy loves more than anyone in the world?

My husband.

itsbuddy!0000

As cute as he is, Buddy can be temperamental. When we are gone for longer than Buddy would like, he leaves us little “presents” as a sign of his displeasure.

Every morning without fail, he picks up his favorite toy, a blue rubber barbell, and walks all around the house whining loudly as if he has lost his best friend. This goes on for at least ten solid minutes.

The first time we left for a vacation, we innocently packed our bags and left them in the foyer to load into the car in the morning. Buddy promptly took one look at the luggage, somehow knew that that meant that we were leaving, and had a nervous breakdown. He drooled copiously. He vomited. He tried to attach himself to one of us, any of us, so that he would not be left behind. We assumed he would be fine once we left.

My brother (who was watching Buddy for us) called two days later, sounding exhausted. Buddy was such a nervous wreck that Jeff had barely gotten any sleep. Buddy was refusing to eat or drink. He was not sleeping. So, Jeff was forced to take him to the emergency vet ER, where they had to hook Buddy up to IVs to hydrate him and prescribe tranquilizers so he would sleep.

(After getting the bill, it was my husband’s turn to have a nervous breakdown).

Buddy0002

When we lived in Florida, my brother thought that Buddy might enjoy running on one of the beaches that welcomed dogs. He was absolutely terrified of the sand and ended up vomiting everywhere…including all over Jeff’s truck.

Buddy never went back to the beach.

buddy in cone 002

Buddy is wearing a cone here because in a fit of neurosis, he would not stop licking his paw, and all the fur was gone. This was our only remedy. (Well, that and some more prescribed tranquilizers).

Buddy always slept with our son until he went off to college. We assumed that he would then be happy to sleep with our daughter.

Not so.

Buddy whined. Buddy scratched at the door.  At one point, Julia left her door open  and Buddy made a beeline for our room, only to be returned to his rightful place. He sulked.

Finally, one night, my daughter appeared at our bedroom door, clutching the white furball, declaring that she was desperate for sleep and could we please let Buddy sleep with us from now on?

We reluctantly agreed.

We haven’t had a good night’s sleep since.

Every single night, Buddy leaps into our bed and proceeds to lick Doug’s face and wag his tail, so delighted to be with his beloved. The more Doug protests, the closer Buddy tries to get to him. He literally just sits there and looks lovingly at Doug, completely obliviousness to the hostility. Doug’s very existence seems to be his reason for living.

Buddy0003

Despite being only 20 pounds, Buddy emits the heat of a furnace. He also tends to sleep sideways, taking up a large portion of a queen size bed. I have woken up more than once clutching the very edge of the mattress while Buddy snoozes away, blissfully unaware of the discomfort he is causing.

He also seems to think that my bright orange earplugs ( that I have to wear in order to continue to sleep in the same room with a husband who snores) are some kind of tasty snack. He literally stalks them. I will find him at various times throughout the day on my side of the bed, straining to reach them on my nightstand, then looking extremely guilty when he realizes he has been caught. Every other week or so, I forget to move them and discover they have vanished when it’s time to go to bed.

Still, with all his neuroses and ridiculousness, I adore this dog.

IMG_1352

This afternoon, Julia decided to give Buddy a good brushing, which  is his second greatest love.

I grabbed my camera and decided to capture those moments. I swear, it was as if Buddy saw the camera and started posing (It is too bad that the groomer left his ears so long, which gave him an unfortunately girly look).

Buddy-0022

Buddy-0008

Buddy-0019

Buddy-0006See? He is ridiculous, but I love him.

I posted these photos on Facebook and one of my friends wrote, “I hope he’s doing great. He sure is cute.”

My response: “Buddy is 10. Bichons can live to be 20. Doug is full of despair. I, however, love him.”

That about says it all.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Great Start!


Josh & Mom-0023

I had the chance to spend this New Year’s Day at a party with lots of good friends at a home by the lake. I am sure it would have been lovely and I would have had a great time.

However, I decided to stay home with my family instead and welcome in the new year with the people I love most in this world.

That was definitely the best decision.

Sometimes the most magical times happen most unexpectedly and your heart feels like it is going to burst from all the happy.

It began with my son and I meeting in the kitchen to get something to eat. We got to talking and before long, we were joined by my daughter, my mom, and my husband.

As the cold January sun shone through the kitchen windows, life in all its wondrous beauty happened.

My son sat on the kitchen counter while the rest of us sat around the table.

We talked about everything from Jesus to college life to politics to childhood memories, to church, to hopes and dreams to future grandchildren to sports.

There were serious moments but there was plenty of laughter. At one point, I literally had to wipe the tears from my eyes from giggling so hard.

How I treasure moments like this. They cannot be forced; they just happen organically and they are beautiful. It is one moment in time, never to be repeated.  Eventually, we all drifted off to our own pursuits, but the memories of that two and a half hours will always live on in my heart and bring a smile to my face.

Just as I was leaving the kitchen, I noticed that the light from the setting sun was particularly golden and it lit up my son’s profile in a lovely way. So I grabbed my camera (my New Year’s resolution is to not go anywhere without my camera) and started clicking away.

Josh & Mom-0026-2

Eventually, my mom joined her grandson on the counter and they both allowed me to continue to shoot.

Oh the laughter!

Josh & Mom-0020
Josh & Mom-0027

And silly expressions…

Josh & Mom-0022
Josh & Mom-0030My heart sang as I clicked shutter after shutter.

Almost more than anything else, I LOVE capturing authentic moments as real life unfolds.

I have realized that I am most at home when  my hands are holding a camera  and my eye is looking through the lens,  constantly searching for beauty to capture in the midst of ordinary days.

I am so grateful for the gift of today.

A new year and a fresh journey beckon…and I am ready.

2015 is off to a beautiful start.

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Blessings Abound!


Dec 31 2014-0022

Every January 1st, an empty glass jar sits on our kitchen counter.

We call it the Blessing Jar.

As the year unfolds, each time something good happens, we write it down and drop it into the jar.

On the afternoon of December 31st (before the kids scatter to their various New Year’s Eve plans), we gather around our big farmhouse kitchen table and one by one, we take turns reading a blessing. By the time the jar is empty, our hearts are full and the laughter is plentiful and robust.

This afternoon was particularly sweet.

As I have said before, this has been a hard year.

Sometimes, in the midst of frustration and dashed hopes and hardships, it is easy to forget to look for the light.

Yet, these little strips of colored papers (so many of them!!!) were reminders that the light blazes brightly on even the darkest days because Light is a Person and He forever shines. (John 8:12). 

He is a God who is always coming for us, always chasing us down in order to bless, a God who stores up good things for us, then delights to reveal them at just the perfect time. He adds vibrant color to the gray days and speaks powerful words of life and love from His Word to those who are willing to listen.

He is so good to me.

Let 2015 be the year that I remember that everyday, that I trust Him with the hard and joyfully celebrate the good.

You too?

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Devotions

Letting Go Of Those Expectations


Photo credit: Google

 

The year 2014 has taught me to let go of expectations and just accept what is,

That has proven to be extremely liberating.

I had high expectations about many things going into this year. However, practically nothing happened as I envisioned it would.

In fact, a lot of things went wrong.

There was injustice and frustration.

My heart was broken and there were many tears and some sleepless nights.

Life was mysterious to me in a way it had never been before. There was so much I just didn’t understand.

Eventually, I gave up my need to understand, as well as trying to manage all my expectations and just decided to embrace what was.

I embraced it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly.  In the proces of doing that, the expectations died a natural death.

I began to count my blessings in the midst of the mess. I simply lived each day as it unfolded.

I chose to trust my heavenly Father’s heart, which is the safest thing we can do, as we have His promise that He can only do good to us and His specialty is turning ashes into beauty.

Life is lighter, even though troubles still exist and many questions remain unanswered.

As I approach a new year, I am not going to let my mind race  ahead about how things might go. I will accept what comes and trust that He will supply the grace needed for life in 2015.

Besides…His reality is much better than any expectations I could possibly have.

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The God Who Comes Near


Photo credit: clarksvilleonline.com

I read a Facebook status yesterday that took my breath away.

“The first Christmas was God taking the armor off and becoming vulnerable to the worst we could do to Him.” —Dr. Steve Brown.

Those words are so powerful because they are so true.

The very fact that the same Jesus who called this world into existence would voluntarily leave the perfect and glorious beauty of Heaven to come to this earth as a helpless baby on a rescue mission to save our sin-stained souls is the miracle that should leave us stunned with wonder every Christmas.

In recent years, I have become much more intentional about savoring the Christmas season…not for gifts or the music or the celebrations (as wonderful as those things are)…but for THE Gift: the wondrous gift of Immanuel, God With Us.

Just this morning, I was reminded anew how approachable Jesus has made Himself to us and it filled my soul with fresh joy.

In Ann Voskamp’s advent devotional The Greatest Gift, she writes this:

“God can’t stay away. This is the love story that has been coming for you since the beginning…He comes as a Baby because He is done with barriers. He comes vulnerable because He knows the only way to intimacy with you is through vulnerability with you. You can’t get to intimacy except through the door of vulnerability. So God throws open the doors of this world and enters as a baby. As the most vulnerable imaginable. Because He wants unimaginable intimacy with you.

What religion ever had a god that wanted such intimacy with us that He came with such vulnerability to us?

What God ever came so tender we could touch Him? So fragile we could break Him? So vulnerable that His bare, beating heart could be hurt? Only the One who loves you to death.

“Christmas is about God’s doing whatever it takes to be with us…He climbed down from the throne in Heaven to get to you. (pp.234-236)

I just finished reading a fascinating book by Walter Wangerin, Jr called “The Book Of God: The Bible As A Novel.” He is a beautiful writer and his words made the Bible come alive for me in a fresh way. Near the end of the book, he writes about the moment when the doubting disciple Thomas sees Jesus for the first time after His resurrection. Thomas had refused to let himself believe the other disciples’ accounts of seeing the risen Christ.

However, he was about to experience an encounter with Jesus that he would never forget the rest of his days.

The very much alive Jesus appeared to him and all doubt flew away forever.

Wangerin writes: “On Sunday night the disciples were again gathered in the upper room…Thomas felt himself alien here. Everyone else seemed bound together by some ethereal experience that excluded him. His mood was sour. He was planning to leave these people and this place but he hadn’t yet decided where to go.

Then someone directly behind him said, “Peace be with you.”

Thomas began to turn around—then leaped to his feet, all his nerves singing. It was Jesus!

Candlelight brushed the sides of His face with an orange warmth and shade. He was looking at Thomas.

“Come here.” Jesus said.

Jesus was speaking to none but him. “Thomas, come here.”

Slowly Thomas approached.

As He did, Jesus opened the palms of His hands and said, “Reach out your finger. Examine my wounds.”

Jesus opened His robe so that His flesh was visible from His ribs to His hip. “Reach out your hand and put it into My side….Do not be faithless but believing!”

The poor disciple, now completely bowed down before Jesus whispered, “My Lord and My God!” (pp. 829-830).

(You can read the biblical account of this event in John 20:24-29)

Christmas declares that our infinitely powerful and holy God has come close enough to allow us to reach out and touch Him. First as a baby, then as a boy, then as a man.

Not every touch was a tender one, however. He allowed His body and face to be punched with fists, His forehead to be lacerated with a crown of thorns,  His back to be ripped to shreds by a brutal whip made of lead balls and pieces of bone, His hands and feet to be punctured with nails, and His side to be pierced with a sword.

He allowed His created ones to kill Him, their Creator.

All for the love of you.

And then in a beautiful moment, He invites Thomas, who was as frail and fallible as we are, to touch His resurrected body that will forever bear the scars that made it possible for us who once had a death sentence hanging over our heads to be set free.

There is a glorious day coming for every Christ follower who now walks this earth: One day, you will see the resurrected Jesus, just as Thomas did. Not only will you see His beautiful face, hear His Voice, and bask in the warmth of His smile, but you, too, will be able to see and touch the scars that bought you your freedom.

And you will spend all eternity giving thanks for the fact that God Himself entered time and space and came near to us in that stable in Bethlehem.

And she gave birth to her Son and she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes and laid Him in a manger because there was no room or place for them in the inn.

And in that vicinity, there were shepherds living out under the open sky in the field watching over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood by them and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone all about them and they were terribly frightened.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will come to all the people. For to you is born this day in the town of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord!” (Luke 2:7-11) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Devotions

The Power of Moments


 

Thanksgiving 2013-0217-1

“Moments are strung together…carefully woven into the tapestry of life.”—Matt Knisely

I recently experienced two powerful moments that have deeply impacted me.

They happened within the same week and I wanted to record them in the hopes that they might serve to light a fire in your heart and wake up something that is asleep in your soul.

*****The first moment concerned my mother. She has lived with us since 2012 and it has been a joy to have her here.

I am not speaking out of line when I tell you that she suffers from severe clinical depression. (She is very open about that fact because she is passionate about making sure that people do not feel shame for taking medication that is necessary to live a rich and productive life).

It alarmed all of us when she suddenly seemed to begin to disappear into herself about a week ago. She became withdrawn, slept quite a bit, looked pale and did not have much to say. An appointment was made with her doctor to address the issue.

The night before she was to see the doctor, we all gathered for dinner around our big table. My husband had grilled some steaks, which is her very favorite food.

(Quick side story: This is a running joke in our family. On the way home from Disney World one year, we stopped at an Outback Steakhouse. Everyone was famished  and my mom ordered the filet. Once it was served to her, she proceeded to make a string of noises that signified her absolute delight in the deliciousness she was experiencing. This  prompted my brother to ask, “Would you like to be alone with your steak?” 🙂 To this day, we tease her about that. The woman loves her steak!).

However, this night was a different story. She exhibited no enthusiasm and ate very little, leaving most of the meat on her plate before going to bed. She did not join in on any of the conversation that swirled all around her.

At one point, our eyes met across the table and there was just nothing there. No sparkle, no joy, just a blank look. The moment passed when she looked away and picked up a piece of bread.

A lump formed in my throat, my eyes burned with tears, and my heart pounded.

“What if she doesn’t come back?” my mind screamed. “She HAS to! I have wasted too many days!”

Too many days when I have been too busy or too tired or too stressed or too distracted to spend time with her, to share a story or a laugh, to take a drive, to cook a meal.

I have been given this time with my one and only mother as a gift! How can I sleepwalk through that?! How can I treat that so lightly?!

I needed to WAKE UP!

And I have. I am delighted to report that the new medication is working and Mom has come back to us!

As I write this blog post, she is happily entertaining fellow widows from our church. It was such a huge joy for me to see her busily setting up the table with her favorite china and teacups earlier today. The sun shone on all the Thanksgiving decorations she has displayed and the lemon cake was proudly displayed on a decorative cake plate.

Mom has a tremendous gift for hospitality and entertaining and it truly is a joy to behold when she shares that gift with others.

I am so incredibly grateful to have her back with us and I am done taking these days which are sheer gift for granted.

Look around your life. Who are you tending to take for granted? Time with our loved ones is a gift. Don’t squander it. Be intentional. Pay attention. Make the effort. Tell them why you love them. Celebrate the moments. This time will not come again.

*****The second powerful moment occurred two nights ago when Mom told me about a conversation she had had with an old friend. This lady had always dreamed about being a writer. She published a few articles in Guideposts, but her big dream was to write a novel. She had joined writer’s groups, and done lots of research on her novel, even went so far as to interview various people on the subject.

But she never did write that book.

And now she is at the end of her life, living in a nursing home and she knows that that dream will never become a reality.

I felt like a bucket of ice cold water had been dumped over me in that moment.

I have a couple of very specific dreams for my life.

I will be 50 years old in a few months.

Have I made some progress to making those dreams a reality? Yes, I have.

However, once again, I was confronted with how much time I have wasted on the non-essentials, acting like I have all the time in the world.

I don’t. And neither do you.

I don’t want to be at the end of my life in a nursing home and have to live with the knowledge that I never achieved my dreams during my short run on this planet.

We ALL have a story to tell. We all have a God-given talent to share with this world. We all have a unique voice. We all have a passion. We all are His masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10).

I ask you today: What steps are you taking toward your dream? Do you even know what your dream is? If not, it’s time to find out.

Do not let the days go by in a blur. Stop just thinking about your dream and start moving toward it. Set manageable goals. Challenge yourself. Don’t let fear hold you back and steal your dream away from you. What do you have to lose?

This is your chance and today is your day! 

If you are what you should be, you will set the world on fire.”—Catherine of Siena

Poet Mary Oliver closes her poem The Summer Day with a question that is also the perfect ending for this post:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Power Of Music


CMU Visit-0027

Today, I sat next to Luke in church.

Luke is an adorable five year old whose mother is a dear friend of mine and the worship leader at our church. She sings like an angel and brings joy to everyone her life touches.

Luke was intent on coloring when our pianist began to play “Thy Word.”

He dropped his crayon and turned excitedly to his grandmother. “Mommy sings this song to me every night before I go to sleep!” he announced. Snuggling into his grandmother’s arms, he began to sing loud and clear in that sweet,high-pitched voice that little children posses.

Tears instantly filled my eyes as I listened to his voice blend with the notes on the piano.

It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard.

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path

When I feel afraid and think I’ve lost my way
Still, You’re right there beside me
Nothing will I fear as long as You are near
Please be with me to the end

I will not forget Your love for me and yet,
My heart forever is wandering
Jesus be my guide and hold me to Your side
And I will love you to the end.

Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet
And a light unto my path.

As we drove home from church, I got to thinking about the power of music.

When I was a teenager, we once had a guest speaker at my youth group.

He talked about how influential music is to our psyche and gave an example that has stuck with me.

It was the 80’s and a new song had come out. It was called “867-5309/Jenny.”

He said, “You will most likely not remember the phone number to the house you grew up in. But you will still remember 867-5309 when you’re 40 because it was set to music.”

He was absolutely right.

I will be 50 years old in four months and I still remember that song title.

Music embeds itself in our minds and hearts and just a few notes of a familiar song can transport us back in time, enveloping us in emotions and memories that bring joy, sadness, longing, regret, or a combination of all.

Jesus created music. (He is singing over your precious life at this very moment. Don’t believe me? Look up Zephaniah 3:17. Go ahead. It’s in the Old Testament, near the back. It will be worth the trip, I promise).

When my kids were little, I sang “There Is A Redeemer” to them every night before they went to sleep.

Each time I hear that beautiful song, my mind instantly takes me back to their rooms, illuminated only by the cheery glow of a nightlight. The scent of soap and bubble bath and shampoo from bath time still clung to their clean skin and they were snuggled in tight with their favorite toy under the blankets. And in that moment in time, a tired mama’s voice rose in song telling the sweetest love story this world will ever know.

There is a Redeemer,
Jesus God’s own Son,
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah
Holy One

Thank You, oh my Father
For giving us your Son
And leaving Your Spirit
Til the work on earth is done

Jesus my Redeemer,
Name above all names
Precious Lamb of God, Messiah
Holy One

When I stand in glory,
I will see His face,
And there I’ll serve my King forever
In that holy place

And every time my mom visited, she sang “Because He Lives” to them.

God sent His Son,they called Him Jesus
He came to love, heal and forgive
He lived and died to buy my pardon
An empty grave is there to prove
My Savior lives!

Because He lives,
I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives,
All fear is gone.
Because I know He holds the future,
And life is worth the living
Just because He lives!

Last Christmas, Josh asked my mom for a cross that had Because He Lives engraved on it. (That is the photo at the top of this post).

I know that as my kids make their way in this world, the cold winds of adversity will blow into their lives. It is my prayer that during those times, Jesus will bring those songs to their minds and hearts, and that they will speak His truth to them when they most need to hear it.

That is a beautiful thing.

“Music acts like a magic key, to which the most tightly closed heart opens.”—Maria von Trapp

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Devotions

Hijacking The Dark


 

Sept Morning-0025

Reading Ann Voskamp’s blog post today was a balm for my soul.

She writes, “Grace is never passive. Grace is a hijacker. Grace hijacks the dark…your calling is radically this: Gloriously hijack every darkness with grace….give thanks in the most unlikely places….Why not get really subversive with this giving thanks and go hard after the dark this month: take the dare to write down 1000 gifts in the month of November…(because) daily doxology is how to detox your soul….a personal revolution of gratitude turns everything around.”

She is calling this the “November Niagara Of Thanks.”

I am going to start today. It is the 10th so if I am to record a little over 33 gifts a day, I will need to name 333 graces today. 

And am I ever ready to do it!

This year has been without a doubt the hardest, most exhausting and heartbreaking year I have ever lived.

It has been the wildest ride with my Savior yet. There have been so many moments that my heart has pounded with fear or felt like it was going to break right in two and then shatter into a million tiny shards. There have been times when I felt like I couldn’t even breathe. I have cried buckets of tears. There have been moments when I have had to cling with all my remaining strength to the TRUTH of His Word that says that all is well when my life circumstances scream the opposite. I have asked Him a million questions but have never once questioned His character.

Because I know my Jesus. Having given His very life for me, I can trust Him with everything, even that which I do not understand. As battered and bruised as I am, I am more in love with Him than ever. I know how faithful and good He is. He has spoken His Word and His promises to me over and over again with infinite gentleness and patience.  I am experiencing firsthand His healing touch on my busted up heart.

He sends forth His Word and heals me and rescues me from the pit. (Psalm 107:20).

I have lived that verse this year.

The reason Ann’s post spoke so forcefully to me today is that I am sick of the darkness. It is unrelenting in this season of my life, (and the lives of so many others. People are hurting today as never before. Every single person I know is going through some type of hardship) and like a rush of fresh air—and fresh JOY—Ann reminded me that darkness NEVER gets the last word.

Why?

Because Jesus IS the LIGHT of the world (John 8:12). And He is here, in this place, with me, even as the darkness hovers and threatens to overwhelm.

I do not have to let it.

I can choose to fight back with His  grace and His light and His truth and His power.

So I will pick up my pen and this very day, that pen will become a sword that will slash defiantly at the darkness.

As I write down 333 ways that He is showing His never-ending love to me, His light will flood my soul and chase the darkness away. The enemy will go down in flames like the defeated loser he is and will always be.

I will fight and as I do, He will put the steel back into my soul.

And I will do it all again tomorrow and the next day and the next until by the end of this month, I will have written down 1000 gifts that come from His merciful hand, straight from Heaven to me.

And I will see and experience firsthand how His Light ALWAYS overcomes the darkness. I will rejoice in what will now become a November Niagara Of Thanks.

Join me?

Arise from the depression and prostration in which circumstances have kept you—rise to new life! Shine and be radiant with the glory of the Lord, for your Light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!—Isaiah 60:1

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Devotions

A Teary Sunday Night


Photo credit: cincinnati.com

There is a nor’easter blowing outside our windows tonight. Winter is making an unwelcome early entrance.

In light of the weather, I am watching Christmas movies on the Hallmark channel. Hearing all that Christmas music has brought back so many wonderful memories of years gone by and I am already looking forward to  all the joy that season brings.

Just a short while ago, I was trading texts with our son Josh, who is a freshman in college. Through my husband’s best friend Mike, he was able to meet the former poet laureate of Pennsylvania this afternoon. He was incredibly inspired and excited.

I loved his Facebook status: “Had a very enlightening meeting with the former Pennsylvania poet laureate this afternoon. I felt absolutely illiterate and underdeveloped as an artist but all I want to do now is work my hardest and achieve whatever  potential I’ve been afforded. I’m excited for the future—feeling determined.” 

This was my happy frame of mind when a headline on Facebook caught my eye.

Lauren Hill Plays First (And Last?) Game.”

Intrigued, I clicked on the story.

And the tears came in torrents. We are talking the ugly cry here.

Lauren Hill is a college freshman, the same age as my son.

She got a basketball scholarship to a college in Ohio and her future looked bright.And then she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor and was given only a few months to live.

Now that bright future is clouded with much uncertainty and unbearable sadness.

But Lauren is a fighter; indeed, she refers to herself as a “warrior.” With the help of her parents and coaches, the college agreed to move the first game up by two weeks so she could be well enough to play.

I could not escape the irony as I read that article. (Here is the link).

I had just been getting caught up in the excitement of discussing my son’s dreams with him and now I was reading about a girl his age whose future consists of days rather than years.

I found myself thinking of her parents. I simply cannot imagine what it is like to live in their shoes.

The entire family is focused simply on the present moment, taking nothing for granted.

How many times do I need to be reminded of this?

That tomorrow is not promised?

That my very good God has spread a feast of blessings out for me and how can I sometimes be so blind as to not see?

Oh, this life can be so heartbreaking sometimes. Always mixed in with the beauty is the ugly. A heart this is filled with happiness one moment can be broken in two with pain the next.

We are never so wise as when we open our eyes, stand up, and face life just as it is, living within the tension of “the ugly-beautiful” as Ann Voskamp calls it. Life will never be perfect. The brave accept that and determine to make their lives a treasure hunt, a quest to discover the echoes of Heaven that shimmer and shine in the midst of this dark and fallen earth.

The author of the article on Lauren Hill shared that, “She doesn’t know how tomorrow will go, so she rarely allows her mind to wander too many hours ahead.” (Alyssa Roeinjk).

Wherever you are today, whatever your circumstances, adopt Lauren’s attitude.

Live and love today.

This day spreads out before you like a gift.

Open it. Live it. Face it head on. Celebrate what you can. Pray about what you cannot understand. Laugh. Count your blessings. Make the decision to be fully present. Don’t miss a thing. Be thankful.

Whatever you do, don’t waste it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized