Blessed Be the Tie

My family recently gathered together for a reunion in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. There were double cousins, second cousins, third cousins, in-laws – some close as brother and sister, others near strangers in acquaintance. One family drove an hour to get there, another two days, another flew three hours. But I think it’s safe to say, that no matter how far or near, no matter the cost in time or preparation, every single one of us would say It was more than worth it!

I came across a quote while preparing for the reunion that resonates with me even more after our family was together for three days:

Family ~ A Link to the Past and a Bridge to Our Future

In the short time we had together in those cabins by the river, we swapped stories of past relatives, shared our personal struggles with life this side of heaven, laughed and cried together in ways that will forever remain in my heart as a special gift.

I learned that my sweet shy grandma liked to watch pro wrestling on TV (WHAT?!). That my brother was once dragged home from a dance by our wonderful grandparents, Ma and Pa, because they thought it was too worldly. That my great grandpa was once land rich in Texas and had given a farm to each of his children as a wedding gift. He had also owned a bank during the great depression, and when things went belly up, he sold parcels of his own land to personally reimburse the account holders in his bank (think George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life.) Aww!

We talked about a great uncle who was an ace pilot in WWII; an aunt who suffered from agoraphobia and depression; a stepfather to our mothers who leaned toward cruelty to his children and stepchildren.

We brought family mementos and homemade gifts for a silent auction at the reunion: creative cookbooks filled with family photos, recipes and stories that are worthy of being handed down to subsequent generations as family treasures; wooden photo “cubes”; three of Ma’s homemade aprons; vintage photo key chains; two quilts; potholders and dish towels; Ma’s square angel food cake pan; two family photo framed collages; a book about cave insects written by our uncle; photo coasters…and so much more. Each one of these items is a link to our shared past – to those loved ones who came before us and contributed significantly to who we have become today.

There is nothing more “heartwarming” than watching cousins chase each other down with a water balloon…or competitively toss cheese balls onto a team member’s shower cap/shaving cream-topped head…or smash a pie onto an unsuspecting cousin’s sweet face. Laughter has always been one of the threads that holds our family together, and this reunion only made me want more – more of the JOY that comes from shared DNA, stories, memories – that twinkle in the eye that is unique to our family.

One night, we attended a music/comedy show in Eureka Springs at the Ozark Mountain Hoe Down where we heard beautiful gospel harmonies and Elvis oldies, as well as comedy skits including “Tater Chip Patches” and “Uncle  Posture Pedic.” We laughed until our sides ached and we could hardly breathe. But when the patriotic music closed the show in honor of our vets, the recent loss of our family’s own Navy veteran, Wayne, my sister’s husband, hit hard and we found ourselves sobbing in each other’s arms…comforting one another as only families who are close can experience. We were all emotional wrecks after that show – laughing and crying until we were spent. But we had one another…and that is a good thing.

Over those few days together, there were snatches of conversation that I wish could’ve prolonged into hours of sharing…encouraging…comforting. We shed tears and hugged necks, as we offered glimpses into both joy and heartache. I saw sides to cousins I barely know that made me thankful to God for this beautiful, broken family to which I belong. Even though we are miles apart in land and years apart in age, we share a common history and we need one another.

It may be awhile before we see one another again, but I will cherish these family reunion memories until then, and treasure these people whom I am blessed to call my family.

7a1eca264584235a0183a50db0d6d8f3

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The Consolation of Christmas

I decorated the house for Christmas the day after Thanksgiving this year. As is our custom, I put on Johnny Mathis’, “Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire”, and my husband helped me carry in 2,500 boxes of Christmas decorations. When Johnny’s CD finished, I put on the five-hour version of Pride and Prejudice, and fixed myself sparkling cranberry juice and buttered popcorn. Greg had left to join some friends in Tucson for the UA vs. ASU football game, so popcorn and leftover pumpkin pie suited me just fine for supper.

During these preparations, however, I was not surprised to find that I had been joined by my usual Christmas companion – grief. He didn’t loom as large, or as dark, as in years past, but was there all the same – my own personal Grinch. This reminded me to revisit something I had written for our church’s Christmas brunch back in 2008. It’s way too long for a blog post, but I’m not in the mood to try and condense it. If you have the fortitude and patience to wade through it all, may it bring light to any darkness you may be experiencing during these advent days of Christmas.

holly.jpeg

Women of Grace Christmas Brunch                                            December 13, 2008

When ____ first emailed me about speaking for the Christmas brunch, I almost laughed out loud. My first thought was You’ve got to be kidding. Out of all the women in the church, I am probably dreading Christmas the most. In fact, back in September, I began to sort of shrink into myself whenever I thought about the upcoming holidays. As usual, the things I tend to avoid are often the things God leads me to do and, in this case, I sensed God wanting me to give Christmas a closer look.

These past several years, my husband and I have been on a long and difficult journey with our prodigal son. It has been every parent’s worst nightmare – a painful path that God has allowed for reasons that are not yet clear to us. The solid rock truth to which we cling is that God is sovereign, and that He is good. Most everything else is a mystery to us. So the thought of celebrating and being merry this Christmas seems almost like a cruel joke. My grief has made me want to run from Christmas, certainly not embrace it with joy. But during these past few weeks, as I’ve prepared for this devotional, I have discovered that it is Christmas that will be my greatest source of consolation in my grief.

Where is the JOY?

Why do we sometimes want to avoid Christmas? For many of us, any grief, pain or loss that we’ve experienced during the past year becomes magnified. The pain seems sharper, nearer, less able to bear. The Christmas carol “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” makes us want to shout Seriously?!

Charles Spurgeon said, “Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.”

Sometimes the trials of this life empty our Christmas of its strength, as well as its joy.

Simeon – A Man Who Waited, Embraced and Praised

There is a man in the Gospel of Luke who understood what it meant to truly embrace Christmas. His name is Simeon and Luke gives us this account of his encounter with the Christ child:

“Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, ‘Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.’” Luke 2:25-32 ESV

 

When Luke says that Simeon was “waiting for the consolation of Israel”, what did he mean?

A Closer Look at Consolation

Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines consolation as:

  1. Comfort; alleviation of misery or distress of mind; refreshment of mind or spirits.
  2. That which comforts or refreshes the spirits; the cause of comfort; as the consolation of Israel. (Luke 2:25)

Vine’s Expository Dictionary says that the word consolation is the same Greek word for comfort and encouragement: paraklesis, which means a “calling to one’s side.”

Matthew Henry’s commentary says this about Simeon:

“The same Spirit that provided for the support of Simeon’s hope, provided for his joy. Here is a confession of his faith, that this Child in his arms was the Savior, the salvation itself, the salvation of God’s appointing. He bids farewell to this world. How poor does this world look to one that has Christ in his arms, and salvation in his view!

“The account given of him here is that he waited for the consolation of Israel, that is, for the coming of the Messiah, in whom alone the nation of Israel, that was now miserably harassed and oppressed, would find consolation. Christ is not only the author of his people’s comfort, but the matter and ground of it, the consolation of Israel. He was long in coming, and they who believed he would come continued waiting, desiring his coming, and hoping for it with patience…Note: the Consolation of Israel is to be waited for, and it is worth waiting for, and it will be very welcome to those who have waited for it, and continue waiting. The abundant satisfaction wherewith he (Simeon) welcomed this sight: He took him up in his arms (v. 28), he embraced him with the greatest affection imaginable, laid him in his bosom, as near his heart as he could, which was as full of joy as it could hold.

Just like Simeon, we longer have to wait for the coming of our Comforter, our Redeemer, our Salvation – for HE HAS COME! And because He has come, Christmas can be a source of joy for us – a reason to celebrate, to deck the halls, bake the cookies, and sing praises to His name.

So Where Do We Find Consolation?

  • God’s Word

“For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:5

Our afflictions may be many, but what joy that God’s comfort also abounds through Christ.

“And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation.” 2 Corinthians 1:7

Throughout God’s Word we see that sufferings are accompanied by God’s consolation. If we are truly followers of Christ, then we are pretty much guaranteed suffering at some point along the way. But it is these very trials that prepare our hearts to receive His comfort. We can thank God for that, as they are not “wasted” sorrows.

“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16

The consolation we receive from God is everlasting, giving us hope and enabling us to serve God more fully in every good word and work. Grief drains us, but grief accompanied by consolation only serves to strengthen our service to God.

“Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast…” Hebrews 6:17-19

Meditating on these verses can be a powerful source of comfort. The more we have them flooding our mind, especially at Christmas, when our emotions tend to lead us deeper into melancholy, the more God is able to impart His peace and comfort.

  • Christmas Carols

While studying for this talk, I was surprised by how many Christmas carols speak of sadness and despair, but also are filled with the joy, comfort and consolation that can be found in Christ. Here are a few examples, and may we sing them often throughout this season:

Comfort, Comfort Ye My People

Comfort, comfort ye My people,

Speak ye peace, thus saith our God;

Comfort those who sit in darkness,

Mourning ‘neath their sorrow’s load;

   Speak ye to Jerusalem

Of the peace that waits for them;

Tell her that her sins I cover,

And her warfare now is over

Yea, her sins our God will pardon,

Blotting out each dark misdeed;

All that well deserved His anger

He will no more see nor heed.

She has suffered many a day,

Now her friends have passed away,

God will change her pining sadness

Into ever springing gladness.

“God Rest You Merry Gentlemen” contains the wonderful news of Christmas: “tidings of comfort and joy.”

The verse, “My Joy, my Exultation, my spirit’s Consolation” comes from the carol, “The Virgin Stills the Crying.”

The lyrics to “O Come O Come Emmanuel” speak about all God has given us by His coming: ransoming the captive who are mourning and lonely, freeing us from Satan’s tyranny and the depths of hell, giving us victory over the grave, cheering our spirits, dispensing our gloom, closing off the path to misery and opening wide our heavenly home. THESE are all the gifts He brings at Christmas!

If you’ve ever really listened to Handel’s “Messiah”, you know that it is taken straight out of scripture and is filled with promises from God’s Word like the following:

  • Comfort ye, comfort ye my people
  • Arise, shine, for thy light is come
  • The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light
  • I bring you tidings of great joy
  • For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace
  • Come unto Him all ye that labor and are heavy laden and He shall give you rest

Then there’s the wonderful carol, “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus”, which echoes the longing of our own hearts:

Come, thou long-expected Jesus,

Born to set thy people free;

From our fears and sins release us;

Let us find our rest in thee.

Israel’s strength and consolation,

Hope of all the earth thou art;

Dear desire of every nation,

Joy of every longing heart.

So if you are hurting this season, ask God to give you the grace to turn your gaze away from your pain and onto all the beauty and depth that is truly Christmas. By avoiding Christmas, we are actually missing out on being nearer the One who comes to comfort our hearts. He says that He is, “near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

My grief makes me want to avoid Christmas, but it is Christmas, the coming of Christ, that will console me in my grief.

That babe in a manger, resting beneath the shadow of the cross, is the source of our joy and reason for celebration. May we welcome Jesus, as Simeon did, and take him up in our arms and embrace Him with great affection this Christmas. And may we also allow Him to hold us in His comforting embrace throughout all the celebrations…and perhaps give us the grace to bake a few cookies for someone else who is hurting.

IMG_5010.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Counting Weekend Gifts

It has been a blessed weekend ~

  • Coffee, conversation and reading together on the patio, with my husband, in the early morning hours, both Saturday and Sunday…thankful for the gift of his companionship.
  • Progress made on researching how to self-publish a children’s picture book I have had on my heart for a few years now…thankful for all the help available on the web.
  • Delightful iced coffee made from latest food find – Trader Joe’s Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate – and half ‘n half…and simple sugar syrup…and loads of calories, but consumed with great pleasure and no guilt whatsoever…thankful for refreshing summer treats.

image

  • Two of our favorite dishes – homemade spaghetti and chicken divan…thankful for colorful, creative, delicious food.
  • Sunday’s sermon on “A Steady Heart” based on Psalm 112:7-8, “He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord. His heart is steady; he will not be afraid.”…thankful for the amazing way God’s Word speaks to our hearts and provides strength and courage to continue the journey.
  • A bird, singing with great enthusiasm, in the dead branches of a tree next to our patio this morning, reminding me that, “Though the fig tree (or mesquite tree) should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines…yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation”…and sing anyway (or write or cook or crochet or smile or pray or hug or email or read or listen to music or plant flowers)… and create something beautiful…as an act of faith.

image

  • And then tonight ~ watched (fourth time for me – I love it that much) the wonderful film Many Beautiful Things, with my husband, and was once again inspired by the life of artist and missionary, Lilias Trotter…thankful for a relatively obscure woman whose life inspires me to pay attention, capture beauty, create beauty and live beautifully…for the glory of God. Here’s a peek of her heart and art ~

image

All memorable moments…I am truly thankful.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

What I Learned in March

Been absent from blogging for awhile now, but on this fresh spring morning, the urge to look back on this month, reflect and record is strong. Must be those awfully CHEERFUL birds outside my front door!

Joining up with Emily Freeman at chattingatthesky.com for this March remembrance:

  • I decided to tackle G.K. Chesteron’s book Orthodoxy, and because I am a simpleminded person, quickly discovered reading Chesteron can be like walking through a dark wood filled with unfamiliar flora and fauna. Chesteron’s writing begs me to pause, ponder, learn and grow…mainly in my vocabulary! So here are a few of the words that I either know and love, or those with which I was not well-acquainted, but would, perhaps, enjoy getting to know: nihilistic, ethos, prosaic, pragmatic, ambiguities, askance, blinkered (love this one! means “wearing blinders”).

I also loved this, “Solemnity flows out of men naturally, but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy, hard to be light.”

Yep. Makes me want to do the hard thing – LEAP more – into laughter!

  • March brought windy days and splashes of color. I learned that…

IMG_2730

From a stick (bare-root lavender), beautiful growth, color and fragrance can spring forth. So God can take any barren part of my soul and breathe new life into it. He can, He does and He will continue to do so…miraculously.

IMG_2733

I also learned that it’s good to stand back a ways, in order to see the big picture of beauty, but sometimes…

I need to lean in more closely to marvel at God’s amazing detail. What beauty is God creating in the “close-up” parts of my life?

IMG_2735Last year, my husband trimmed an overgrown tree in our front courtyard. I mean he cut that baby down to nearly the ground. I grieved over all that lost foliage, and doubted if it would ever be the same.

IMG_2736

It isn’t the same…it’s healthier, smaller…but more robust, I think, as it comes back to life.

I wince when God prunes me – removes the junk branches, the dying foliage, the overgrown areas of my life that have become too complicated and twisted and stressful for my “tree.”

When will I learn to trust the Pruner’s shears? That He snips and removes out of the abundance of His great goodness and love for me.

  • I learned that there are over thirty-four varieties of grape-scented plants – flowering plants that actually smell like grape Kool-Aid! Who knew?
  • In March, I also learned that minky is a fun fabric, can be a bit tricky, but makes fun baby gifts:10930897_10206414109293817_5500645418639383534_n
  • I learned that Mary Beth Chapman has survived great heartache, and by God’s grace, has gone on to love and serve and be a light in this world…and fellow pilgrim for me…through her book Choosing to See.

  • I was reminded, through a week-long visit with my daughter in Texas, how very much I love this girl and admire her as a godly woman, wife, mother and friend to others.

10553765_636935151058_2641449567086341444_oAnd, of course, these little munchkins (aka, my granddaughters), brought me an abundance of joy and laughter!

                            Shopping                             Playground fun

  • I learned that this next season of Downton Abbey will be their last. I promptly donned sackcloth and ashes and crawled into a brief stage of mourning. I will miss these imaginary friends of mine!

10987437_10206265971310460_6130570911632507752_n

  • And lastly, I learned that I may be in love with the Indian spice, garam masala. I purchased some last week from the whole food market and it is now filling up my pantry with the most amazing aroma. I sometimes go in there just to inhale all its deliciousness and imagine I’m on the streets of Mumbai, draped in colorful scarves and riding in a rickshaw.

March was a time of rich blessing, that is for sure. Thank you, Lord – giver of all good gifts!

11 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

The Theology of Belly Buttons

It’s not often I think about the belly button. In fact, the most recent time I thought about it was when my adorable year-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter brought it to my attention through this picture:

bellybutton

She had discovered belly buttons, and was intrigued by them! Her delight in discovering her baby sister’s belly button is evident in this picture, and no doubt will provide lots of giggles at her wedding reception one day. This type of fascination with the belly button is adorable, endearing and precious.

There is, however, a second meaning associated with the belly button that is not so adorable – that of “navel-gazing.”

Navel-gazing is defined as, “Engaging in self-absorbed behavior, often to the point of being narcissistic.” This is when we spend way too much time in unproductive, self-centered contemplation. The focus is on “ME” – how do I feel, what am I thinking, what do others think of … ME. It is most often not a good thing.

While listening to a podcast from White Horse Inn recently, I was introduced to a third, very different, perspective on the belly button. Michael Horton was interviewing author Kelly Kapic about his most recent book, God So Loved He Gave. In his book, Mr. Kapic discusses the myth of personal freedom and autonomy – the idea that we exist in isolation as self-made individuals, dependent on no one. In this discussion, he humorously brought up the belly button’s huge theological importance – how it serves to remind us that we are not autonomous, but that we belong to, are attached to, Another – the Creator God himself.

In this discussion, Mr. Kapic brought up the doctrine of creation – that EVERYTHING owes its existence to God. So, we too, owe our very existence to the one who made us. Romans 11:36 says:

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.

From him, through him, to him…sounds like utter dependence to me…and sweet communion.

So from this day forward, I think the belly button will remind me of the blessedness of belonging, and also that I am not to live my life in isolation, but in community – generously giving to others from the abundance that God has given to me.

I agree with my granddaughter about the belly button… “it’s a good thing.” 🙂

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Beauty in Bach

Lately, it seems, I’ve become more aware of the wondrous gift of music. I was feeling a bit blue the other day until a YouTube video came across my path. Of all things, it was elephants…swaying in rhythm to the notes flowing from the strings of a violin next to their enclosure. Elephants!

I couldn’t help but smile and wonder at their intuitive response to this beauty. I do believe they were rejoicing and feeling JOY as they swayed their trunks back and forth. It was a mild rebuke to my downcast soul…and I was inspired!

The music was Bach, my favorite composer, whose music always seems to precisely express the condition of my heart. Listening to Bach is like liquid joy, comfort, celebration and empathy, poured into my soul for renewal and refreshment. At times, his music feels like going on a journey or listening to a story. There are moments of frolicking and merriment, but also songs played in a minor key that feel more like mourning and loss.

Bach’s music is a beautiful gift to us – one in which the Creator speaks to us of His love.

In Luke 19 we read of the Pharisees’ rebuke of those singing praises to Jesus during his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, “…the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!’ And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”

Jesus responded by saying, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.”

In our silence, even the hardest, most inanimate, of creation will rise up and musically rejoice over who He is.

Long ago, God asked Job if he had been there when “the morning stars sang together.” Stars actually sang together? Wow.

Stars singing, rocks crying out, elephants swaying… “He who has ears to hear, let him hear”…the MUSIC! And in the hearing, may we understand, more fully, God’s beautiful character.

From the book The Haunted Bookshop

“Humanity is yearning now as it never did before for truth, for beauty, for the things that comfort and console and make life seem worthwhile.”

There is beauty to be found in music, and we are all yearning for the comfort and consolation it can bring. Make room for this gift in your life this week. Sing, sway, dance…and rejoice! I guarantee God will use it as a reminder that life, indeed, is worthwhile.

Here’s a bit of Bach to get you started ~

http://

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Dancing in the Streets

Got up one morning last week, fixed my mug of strong black tea with honey, grabbed a gingerbread biscotti and headed to the computer to check Facebook. While scrolling through my news feed, I noticed a video that my cousin, Karen, had posted.

It took only about a minute into the video before my throat clinched up and the tears began to flow. I was baffled. Why did this video affect me so powerfully?

The few days leading up to this moment had been filled with TV images from the violence and protests taking place on the streets in Ferguson, Missouri.

A cacophony of volatile emotions and accusations – I was weary of it all.

But when I watched the video below, something broke within my heart and mind. Such a contrast to the streets of Ferguson…such a vivid display of what can happen when we shift our focus away from ourselves and onto the God of the universe.

The issues surrounding this incident are complex (and straightforward), hurtful, and confusing. Hatred is stirred up, violence is unchecked, fingers are pointed.

I’m not proposing we all hold hands and sing Kumbaya together. But what if…

What if this jubilant group of singers showed up on the streets of Ferguson one night and began singing praise to God. Would tensions ease? Would confusion turn to clarity? Would we all begin to listen and seek more to understand than to accuse?

I wonder…and I pray…

2 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Beneath the Beauty

Usually I watch the evening news out of the corner of my eye while attending to something else in my lap – browsing Pinterest or Facebook on my iPad, folding laundry, working on some needlework. But one night last week, a picture popped up on the large screen that yanked my eyes and heart into sharp focus.

It was the photo of people searching through fields of sunflowers for wreckage of the downed Malaysian jetliner.

photo(49)

Here’s the thing that got me about this picture. We are accustomed to looking for even the smallest hint of beauty rising up out of ashes of destruction.  But in this photo, these men are keeping their eyes open for any sign of death and destruction that may lie beneath all the beauty. They are looking for charred luggage, plane fuselage, a black box…and most heartbreaking of all – the remains of the victims.

I couldn’t help but admire these men in the fields – men who had the courage to wade into the beauty, pull back the stalks and look for the ugly. To remove the remains of the devastation.

We all have our fields of flowers – our smiling faces, our pretty clothes, coiffed hair and polished nails…our I’m good, thanks for asking.

But beneath all that is beautiful lies the broken pieces of our lives, the parts that have been shot out of our sunny skies to lie in ruin close to our hearts. Dark charred places that nobody ever sees.

We long for someone to wade into our yellow fields, bend back the flowers and say I see this. I care about it. Tell me how it came to be here. Let me help you carry it out. If we can’t carry it out, let me sit here in this field and weep with you.

Proverbs 20:5 says ~

 “…the heart of a man is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out.”

There is a fine art to this digging deep and drawing out of our hearts.

But oh how we desire for someone to take the time and have the understanding to pull back the pretty and ask tender loving questions about the ugly.

And may we be brave enough to wade – carefully, slowly, lovingly – into others’ fields, to all that lies beneath the beauty.

sunflower

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Sand Bags and Leashes

This morning’s walk was glorious…sun strong-arming its way upward through the low ceiling of heavy clouds…Let me through, let me through! 

IMG_2030

Our monsoon season has been showing off these past few weeks. The ground is saturated, the washes are flowing and the daily thunderstorms have become our evening entertainment. This is the first time, in several years, that we can actually begin to relax and enjoy the rains again because….

We had a monstrous fire in our area a few years ago, one that destroyed most of the trees and brush up on our mountains, and charred its way up to the very edge of our property, leaving the stucco on our house speckled with ash. Flooding became a real problem when the monsoon season hit on the heels of the fire. There was no longer much on the mountains to stem the rains and slow its descent into our neighborhoods. The floods drastically altered the dirt road that leads up to our house, gouging out a deep gorge that would fill up with debris during every rain storm. The water swirled around and seeped into several homes in our area, so people put sandbag walls around their homes – for protection.

IMG_2036

This morning, one home still has sandbags up…just in case.

 

When I clipped the leash on our dog before my walk this morning, I thought about other catastrophes in our lives – the things that hurt us and gouge out deep wounds in our hearts.

The days of letting our pups run free on our walks, stopped one day when a rattlesnake killed our precious Yorkie – not during a walk, but on our patio, inside our walled backyard. The summers here are wonderful, but they are not without an “ugly” side. We live out in the country on four acres, that green up so beautifully after a few good showers. But the season also awakens the snakes. And so our walks are shadowed a bit now, because my eyes are always on the edges of the dirt road, ready to rein in our pooches should I spot anything slithering in the dirt or grass. I still enjoy the walks, but I’m more guarded. And I now put our dogs on leashes – for protection.

Once we’ve been hurt, whether it be through catastrophic fire and flooding, the loss of a beloved pet from a rattlesnake bite, or an even greater heartache – one that sends you reeling into the shadows and clinging to the cross – one thing is certain, our walk through this world is altered. We put up sandbags and clip on leashes – for protection, vowing we will never be that vulnerable again.

It is a reality of life lived here in, what C.S. Lewis aptly named, the Shadowlands.

But there is hope and joy to be found, even in the midst of our guardedness and striving for self-protection. It is a hope and joy rooted in a God who sees all, weeps with us, and promises to turn our ashes into beauty. I’ve seen Him do this, time and time again…and it propels me onward and gives me courage to be vulnerable again ~ to risk being wounded.

Abraham Kuyper said…

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, “Mine!”

We are His beloved and, blissful thought, He owns every square inch of our lives – our homes, our pooches, our children, our jobs, our loved ones – they all belong to Him. And He is not a harsh landlord. He is a good Lord, who speaks to us in our pain…

ca569f7563ad537c63e7117abfa46007

God redeems what is stolen. He restores what is broken.

It will never be the same again, and we may never even see the restoration this side of eternity, but we must never stop looking for it, and trusting the One who promises to make all things new.

This year, we are seeing no flooding at all. There is enough new growth on the mountains to keep the waters at bay and enable us to sit back and enjoy the rains more fully. God is restoring the landscape around here, and bringing a renewed relaxation and enjoyment of the monsoon season.

And God has blessed us with two “new” canine babies, who delight our hearts and amazingly awaken more joy, when we once swore we wouldn’t get another one because the pain of losing it was too great.

I’m learning to guard my heart differently now. Not so much against the pain, but against bitterness and hardness of heart. I ask God to give me a soft tender heart, one that trusts Him more readily. When I start to put up sandbags and clip on leashes, I ask God to help me let go, relax, trust Him with all I strive to protect.

It will be a lifelong struggle – those sandbags and leashes will always be near.

But HE is nearer still.

Oh Lord, help me to remember that.

img-thing

4 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Small Things

The thunder is loud in the canyons behind our house – tumbling around like giant boulders playing chase. Rain patters our skylights and soaks our doggies as they go out for their final backyard visit before settling down for the night. Jeans rattle in the dryer, their metal buttons and zippers clacking in rhythm to the rain. It’s a peaceful moment, in what has been an ordinary day around the home front.

I wonder why I even take these few minutes to record this day. Why remember it? Nothing eventful happened. No phone calls of any significance. Even a trip into town might have been noteworthy had I run into someone I know, or didn’t know, but would’ve enjoyed engaging in conversation.

It was a stay-at-home-clean-house-do-laundry-organize-set-things-in-order sort of day.

But it was a day.

Given by a gracious God, to live fully, even in the seemingly mundane moments and tasks.

There was ~

  • air to breathe
  • an air conditioned home
  • pooches to pamper and hug often
  • a meal to plan and create (yes, create – cooking is a chore if I make it, but playtime if I create it)
  • a husband to greet warmly at the door with a hug and home cooked meal
  • clothes to clean and hang in our closets
  • a computer that keeps me connected to the outside world on these home days
  • words to read
  • words to write
  • a mind to think
  • hands to create “Toddler Busy Bags” for my 18 month old far away granddaughter
  • flowers to plant in a pot by the front door

It was indeed, a day.

And I am thankful to the Father for letting me live it.

il_340x270.613920744_2yuw

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized