Less than a few minutes from where I sit to the beginning of 2012.

2011 has been so full for my family that I can’t believe we actually made it through with a few braincells (between us!) remaining. New lives have been forged, new friends made. Goodbyes said, books read, paths tread… It’s not been an easy year by any stretch. But pain teaches lessons we don’t learn any other way.

Maybe if I had eaten less sugar, exercised more, risen earlier, made better use of my time…

Maybe if I had listened more, talked less, learned my lessons better…

Maybe if I had spent more time on my knees…

And what of the people around me? I have grieved over dear ones who made wrong choices, others refusing reconciliation, and some walking away from the truth. Sin runs rampant in the streets and where is the God of Justice?

Our world seems to be nothing but chaos and yet the Lord of Hosts still reins. Genesis to Revelation is the tale of His goodness and His Word will stand through the ages. It is our privilege to be part of the unfolding tale of His love.

Every new year, every new day is an adventure. But it is one I gladly face knowing I walk in the shadow of the Almighty.

“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.” Psalm 91:1-4

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It’s a Beautiful Life

You know the saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, I don’t suppose that’s any less true if the picture’s moving–i.e. animated.

A friend shared this short video with me and it’s stuck with me as a beautiful snapshot of the things that do matter in life–your loved ones and the values you pass on.

As our 2011th year draws to a close, many people will take at least a few moments to reflect on what did and didn’t happen this year, the loved ones they lost and gained, the goals and dreams that died or were achieved, and everything else that can possibly fit into the infinite moments of one life. The rest of the people will probably just get drunk so they don’t have to face their failures, past or looming in the future. *wry grin*

But for all those I love and those who see life’s beautiful moments, I offer a well-done picture: worth a lifetime of words.

Blessings in Disquise. . .

A dear friend shared this song with me recently and it struck deeply. There isn’t a day that goes by without hearing of another human’s pain. But God’s perspective is so much greater. . .

Blessings by Laura Story

We pray for blessings, we pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering

All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear
We cry in anger when we cannot feel You near
We doubt Your goodness, we doubt Your love
As if every promise from Your Word is not enough

And all the while You hear each desperate plea
And long that we’d have faith to believe

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

And what if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise

When friends betray us, when darkness seems to win
We know the pain reminds this heart
That this is not, this is not our home
It’s not our home

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can’t satisfy?

And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise?

http://grooveshark.com/s/Blessings/3Fk3lN?src=5

The Reminder of Health

You never know how your life lessons will be packaged.

Probably one of the things that most of us (those of us who have been blessed with it so far) often take for granted is our good health. You don’t realize what a gift it is until you’re down with something—even if it’s just a head cold.

But this weekend, I realized that I also take my loved ones’ health for granted. As most of you know, my husband is a sunny, happy-go-lucky, high-energy prankster. But when the worst illness he’s had in over three years attacked him this weekend, it was all he could do to curl up on the couch and read sports recaps with glazed eyes.

I wanted so badly to be able to help him, take his sickness, ANYTHING to alleviate his suffering. But…helplessness. And do you know? I missed him. Although I was home within speaking distance all weekend, I missed my mischievous prankster and felt bereft of my friend.

Sometimes you just can’t know how much of a difference someone makes in your life until he or she is missing. Don’t wait until their absence makes you miss them. Don’t let illness or work, numerous responsibilities or just “another day” keep you from telling your loved ones how important they are to you. If they make a difference in your life today, tell them today how much you love them. And thank God that they are there today for you to tell. ❤

A Page of Happiness

Smiling faces, beautiful colors, and tantalizing promises of more excitement further in. That distinctive smell—inviting, enticing the corners of your memory and imagination. And the distinct possibility that just around the corner waits the happily ever after you’ve been looking for your whole life.

The carnival?

Europe?

The toy store?

None of the above—the children’s section at the nearest bookstore café. Oh, such a glorious place! Anything wonderful can happen there. The shelves are literally filled to overflowing with dreams, nightmares, adventures, musings, explorations, new lessons, and old lessons relearned.

Granted, the whole bookstore abounds with anything possible to be thought, but somehow it all seems tainted with the disillusionment, disgust, and degradation of the adult world. In the children’s section you enter a world where—if only for a little while—dreams are still beautiful and the world is still a wonderful, exciting place to be.

I found three new favorites there today and there were still so many that called my name as I passed! But I give their names to you, reader, as an enticement to step out of your normal, prosaic, humdrum life and into the Wonderland of the child-heart.

 The Curious Garden ~ the tale of a little boy who takes advantage of an unused corner of his city to grow a bit of beauty.

 America’s White Table ~ A tribute to men and women who have served our country through the eyes of a girl who learns the significance of the White Table.

 The Secret Lives of Princesses ~ a humorous look at the foibles of those members of the fairytale set who supposedly only spend their lives awaiting rescue by handsome princes. 

Don’t lose touch with the children’s section of the bookstore! It holds talismans against adult self-centeredness and salve for the pain of daily life. But above all, it holds the shining gold of summer sunshine. the silvery sparkle of starlight, and the perfume of blue skies–and all they promise.

Springing Eternal

I had a rough weekend.

Eyes on self and my “problems,” there was no sunlight in my world and no breath of fresh air. Not that friends didn’t try to help, but I didn’t FEEL anything but despair, hopelessness, and the utter pointlessness of walking another step in a seemingly endless monotony of useless days.

I know—drama.

“Have you lost hope?” my friends asked me. “Hope for what? Hope in what?” I was (am) confident of my salvation, but of any other bright spot in life, nothing. So what’s the point of continuing to breathe?

The World tends to take a very dim view of hope. Any person who’s had to interact with it for an extended period of time can tell you plainly that if you cherish dreams, and I mean, really believe them—dreams like today will be better, someday you’ll find true love, or you can make a difference in the world—you will be made fun of. There’s no room out there in the “real world” for naïve fantasies and Pollyanna smiles.

“Time to grow up kid. This is the real world.”

The World would have us believe that the more of life we experience, the more “reality” sets in, the clearer our vision for what is and must be. The best way, the World says, to protect yourself from being hurt is to have no hopes at all; only when armored with disillusionment and hiding behind a shield of cynicism, can you survive to fight another day.

But Scripture says otherwise in Romans 5:

1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: “2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in HOPE of the glory of God. 3And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4And patience, experience; and experience, HOPE: 5And HOPE maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” (Emphasis mine.)

What is Paul saying here? Because of Christ’s work, we have access to hope—we positively revel and rejoice—in the hope we have of one day being the perfect reflection of Himself that God intended us to be. We can also rejoice in the hard and painful things that happen here on earth, because it’s God’s loving hand teaching us patience. Patience, in turn, gives us experience—we know that what He has promised, He will do—and what does that experience give us? Cynicism? No! It gives us HOPE!

As Christians, our experiences of the World, when transformed by the Father’s hand, do not make us bitter, cynical, fearful, disillusioned, vindictive people, but beacons of hope. And the World may laugh at us, but what does verse five say? “Hope maketh not ashamed, because the Love of God is shed abroad in our hearts…” It’s not naïve to wake up with hope for the new day. Our hope “springs eternal” because it flows like a fountain from the work of God’s love in our lives.

Remember, there are two forms of the word hope (www.ninjawords.com). The verb form is what people tend to lump in with ridiculousness: “to want something to happen.” We all know that just because we want it to happen is far from guaranteeing that it will.

The noun form, however, is a bit different: “the belief or expectation that something wished for can or will happen.”

When we hope in God, we don’t simply have a “wanting” for something to happen. We are holding in our hearts a tangible reality—a belief or expectation that something wished for can and (not just or) WILL happen in His good time, according to His good plan, by His good will.

I close with another passage from Romans 8, “24For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? 25But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.”

Hope gives strength to carry on, to finish that marathon, to carry that burden one more day, to try one more time.

My hope is in Christ. I am saved by hope.

Learning to Let Go

I watched My Sister’s Keeper last night.

 I grieved for all the friends I’ve known affected or taken by death.

 Sometimes we have relationships with friends and family members we love so much, that we ache at the thought of being away from them, let alone losing them to death. While that awareness that our time together is short can lead us to value what we have even more, it can also detract. Why waste our time with our family moping about the approaching time without them? Why be so distraught at the thought of parting that we poison our time together?

Over the years I have struggled with this a great deal. Part of me is in the moment, trying to capture every detail, every feeling so that I can carry it with me always. And the other part is grieving, trying not to fall apart at the thought of saying goodbye. But goodbye is part of our lives. We can’t escape it. We can only try to say it gracefully.

For the Christian, the grief of goodbye takes on another dimension. There is One who orchestrates our meetings and partings, and it becomes a question of Trust. “Lord willing, I will see this dear one again, if not on earth, than in heaven. But if I shouldn’t, I must trust there’s a reason.” But do we? Do we trust that He guides our small vessels on the ocean of Life? Or do we secretly think we truly are at the mercy of the waves?

Face-to-face with the prospect of another agonizing farewell, I again had to come to grips with this reality several months ago. The battle’s outcome took the form of this prayer. But for you, whoever you are that reads this, I hope for you. I hope you can learn to see His goodness and love—His providence—in the people He brings into and out of your life. It is all for His glory and your good, though the good may require pain. But as His children we look to a Day when—through His perfect, redeeming work on the Cross—we will never feel that pain again. May that Day come soon. Maranatha!

The Prayer of Fellowship

Lord,

I thank You today for this moment in which to enjoy the fellowship of my companion—friend, loved one, co-laborer. I ask that You bless our interaction—that it may glorify You and reflect Your love for us in every respect. I know our time together—like every moment of time we have—is not a right, but a privilege, a gift that Your great goodness chooses to give and I will treasure it as such. Lord, please bless this dear one today as we go our separate ways. I place them in Your hands to mold, break, use or take as You see fit and as fits Your plan. Give me strength to trust Your love, wisdom, and Your good will for their life. I will not question Your work in them, only my perception of it. For now, I wholly thank You for this moment to spend with another creature made in Your likeness. Your goodness is evident in the giving. ~Amen