Changing Seasons…

The temperature and the leaves have fallen.  The trees are bare.  The ground is frozen and covered with the last of the leaves.  Most of them are not even ours.  They have blown from across the way… from the oak trees.  Today is the day to get the last of them up and gone.  The end of the autumn season.

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With a season change comes the time to put away things that you no longer need.  Rakes, flower pots, wheel barrows. All tucked away for the winter.  Some things you have to throw away, for they are not reusable when spring comes.  The two flower pots on my patio that have bloomed beautifully all fall, are now frozen in time.  They still look alive and well, but if you touch them they are brittle.  It’s tough to have to throw them away for they have been a source of life on my patio for many months.  IMG_6233

This change of season should feel a bit like cleaning out… simplifying.  There should be a feeling of excitement for winter and all that it will bring.  Clean yard, neatly stacked wood for the winter fires, snow shovels out, ice scrapers by the back door, scarves and mittens down out of the closet, hot chocolate ready to be made.

I wish it were that easy.  This season change feels more challenging than others have been in the past.  Life has gotten very complicated with all of the things we battle day in and day out – relationships, finances, responsibilities, memories of things lost and hopes for things to come.

Just when I think it’s more than I can handle, God steps in. Like the first evening of November when I walked outside into a glorious sunset.  All the worry that was heavy on my heart washed away for a moment as He revealed that it’s not about me… He’s with me in this change of seasons.

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Of course, I took all the worry back and continued on, waking early in the morning with anxiety and fear.  Wishing, hoping, wondering.  Then He steps in again and lands a letter in my mailbox from a dear friend struggling with breast cancer.  Her words were that of encouragement and love.  Once again, God reminded me of His grace and goodness.  My sweet friend’s words encouraged me to find the blessings throughout the day… to take my mind off the things that are weighing me down.

I’ve let myself get bogged down by all of the leaves falling on me at once.  What I need to do is take one leaf at a time!  Find the blessing and beauty, and do what needs to be done in each moment, covered in His grace and new mercies every day.  The seasons change whether I’m ready or not.

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How are you embracing the season change in your life?  Be encouraged and open to all that the new season will bring.

“For I know the plans I have for you, ” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you” declares the Lord.    Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV)

For Everything There is a Season…

Seasons come and seasons go. Some seem to last forever and some seem to be gone overnight. Some are dictated by the calendar and others by the events in our lives.

Today marks the first day of autumn… my favorite season. While is it just a date on the calendar, it feels different. The trees are no longer that deep rich green. Everything is beginning to take on the yellow and red hues. Because of our dry summer, the leaves are beginning to turn earlier and in some places that have been cooler in the evenings, raining down out of the skies.

There is a chill in the air. That chill that says summer is gone. This morning I awoke to a slight patter of rain… a sound I’ve not heard in a while. Squirrels are madly gathering nuts and cones to store up for winter. Friday nights are filled with football games, marching bands, warm blankets and pumpkin spice lattes. Weekends are spent putting everything outside away for the winter. Soon, we will begin the annual leaf-raking adventure.

Autumn… the season where things begin to die off and prepare to rest for the winter. The season of change.

Some seasons are not calendar driven. Some are seasons in our lives based on circumstances. Often, these seasons are not planned nor anticipated. Sometimes they just show up unexpected; catching us off guard. We may or may not have been given a bit of warning to prepare.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
(Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 ASV)

God uses seasons on our lives to challenge us… strengthen us… give us rest… bless us. Some are more difficult than others. I’ve been through many seasons in my life… more in the past few years than I’d ever imagined. When I’ve been able to keep my eye on Jesus, no matter the difficulty I’ve never gone it alone. My faith and character have grown. I know that there are more to come, but I choose to live for today – the quiet season He has me in right now.

In the meantime, I’m going to relish this calendar season of autumn… for it’s my favorite! I look for this change to bring new challenges, growth and memories to cherish forever. (And maybe a pumpkin spice latter or two!)

What season are you in right now? Are you embracing it?
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Beautiful…

What defines beauty?

What qualities deem one beautiful?

Recently on FB, there is a game (for lack of a better term) going around.  If you are tagged, you are asked to post five photo’s of yourself in which you feel beautiful.  I have only seen a few people take on the challenge.  Is that because it is new and not challenged many women yet?  Or is it because women don’t feel deserving of posting photo’s in which they feel beautiful?

What makes a person beautiful?  Money?  Status?  Fame?  Hair color?  Character?  Size?

I posed a question to my FB friends recently. What do you think of when you hear the word beautiful in regards to a person? What is your definition of beautiful? Be honest! Go!

I received many replies, and for that I am grateful.  I wish I could post them all.  Here are a few of what people shared…

Fruits of the Spirit, love, joy , peace, patience, gentleness, self-control, all wrapped in a package of thankfulness. A beautiful person is born from times of trial that forge and season their hearts.

It radiates from the inside out. Someone who is beautiful, smiles and makes you smile, just because you are inspired through them. You can feel their beauty, not just see it.

I believe a beautiful person has all these qualities, but doesn’t “know” it; humble and selfless, gives to others even when they don’t have anything to give but a smile and their love.

Balanced in care for others and self. Gentle in spirit.

Someone, who even in the midst of ugliness and pain, manages to shine!

Someone who has joy in their life. It shows from the inside out!

I noticed as I read each person’s reply, that no one really made it about physical appearance.  It was about character and heart and attitude.  Yet, our society has made it all about appearance.

Our poor teens don’t stand a chance.  I have two stunningly beautiful step daughters… absolutely gorgeous.  Both of them struggle with being pretty enough.  They embody physical beauty associated with appearance.  Our world has made it very difficult. Beauty is about size, shape, hair color, skin tone, clothing, money/status… must I go on?  This breaks my heart.  We have a generation growing up that has missed the part about  “beauty forged from times of trial.”  Or “balanced in care for others and self.”  This generation does not think of others.  They’ve been trained to look out for number one!  And being beautiful is on the top of the list.

I know in my head that beauty is not about physical appearance.  Yes, there are people out there that are truly “beautiful” in a physical sense.  Our eyes are drawn to them.  We often compare ourselves to them, whether we know it or not.

While I KNOW that beauty goes beyond physical, I don’t always believe it for myself.  For others, absolutely!  I can see beauty in each one of you!  I can convince you that you are THE MOST beautiful person out there!  But when I turn the tables and see myself in that mirror, all that I know about what truly makes one beautiful goes out the window!

Am I going to be chosen for a cover spot on a magazine?  NO!  Do I turn heads as I walk down the street!  Oh gracious no!  Will I make the list for the most beautiful people?  Mum, NO!  Thank goodness!

I KNOW that my beauty comes from deep within and it was given to me and is nurtured by my heavenly Father.  I am infinitely precious to Him.  How very much He loves me.  He is with me.  He has cried tears and rejoiced with me.  I am worth it to Him.  I am beautiful.

Now to get my head and my heart to agree on this issue!  I am going to find five photo’s that I feel beautiful in.  I don’t plan on sharing them, but it is a challenge I want to take on.  I’ve got layer upon layer of issues in my life that coupled with the word beautiful, cause great agony and heartache.  I’ve got a long way to go.

My beloved spoke and said to me, arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me.        (Song of Solomon 2:10)

The Mix of Life’s Emotions…

Social media is changing the way we live. The way we view life. The way we view people around us. We all want to present well. We generally don’t tweet or post the ugly stuff in our lives. We post the good stuff. The happy times. That one photograph that can make everyone think we’ve got it all together. I don’t think most of us do this intentionally. It comes naturally. We want people to see the good in our lives, not the struggles.

Everyone has a story. We all carry joys and burdens around with us each day. Some with greater joy and less heartache. Others with more heartache than joy. Some of us have the ability to keep that heartache tucked away neatly so others may not see it. Some buried so deeply they themselves don’t even see it. Others wear their hearts on their shirtsleeves, walking around transparent to those around them.

Life is hard. Life is amazing. Life is scary. Life is exciting. Life is full of hurt. Life is full of love. Life is difficult relationships. Life is incredible relationships.

It’s nearly impossible to always live as if life if great, grand and glorious! To wear that smile and attitude as if we’ve got everything in control is a burden in itself.

The flip side of that is that it’s exhausting to live with the hurts and trials of life dominating our world. Walking around with the glass half empty.

Our lives are a mix of struggles and joy. We’ve got to embrace them as they come and not try to hide or bury them. Exposing our heart a little more can allow not only ourselves to embrace the journey, but let others join us, so together WE can walk the path.

Life is full of emotions that collide in the moment. This can be a beautiful thing if we let them.

Sadness and gratitude.
Grief and grace.
Pain and beauty.

One without the other can be overwhelming. Finding gratitude amidst sadness brings hope. Receiving and extending grace as we grieve is healing. Finding beauty in our pain strengthens our endurance.

We must live an authentic life. People want to see our true hearts and struggles, not just our best FB world! We are called to reach out to others in our time of need and in theirs. Isolation is lonely. Fellowship is glorious and healing. Finding a community of people to come alongside and share this journey we are on. This journey that is full sadness and gratitude… grief and grace… pain and beauty.

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Believe… Even When It’s Difficult

What do you do when life does not go the way you expect it to?  When it throws you a curve ball so curvy that you can’t even begin to catch it?  When it was thrown so hard it knocks you off balance?

You spin, you whirl, you wobble, you fall.  You fall down hard.  So hard that for a time you can’t even think straight.  Blindsided?  Or were you?  Did you see it coming and just put your head in the sand day after day?

Now what?  Where do you go from here?

Jesus… sweet Jesus.  Hang on tight.  Hold his hand.  Press in and be thankful even when you don’t think you can.

“He does not give you more than you can handle.”  Really?  That overused line does not bring comfort.  Oh, how it’s spoken recklessly to people in crisis.

Stop!  Breathe.  Draw close to him and settle in.  Pray… hope… trust… pray… believe.

Believe that broken things can be restored.
Believe that disappointment is not forever.
Believe that after every storm dissipates
there is clarity and light.
Believe that even if love and kindness
doesn’t change them,
it will change you.

                                                                                                                           (The Backroads Girl)


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Our Father Who Are in Heaven…

Early this morning I sat on my patio amidst a spring/summer rain storm taking in the sights and sounds… wrapped in a blanket with a hot cup of coffee.  Our birdhouse hung quiet and seemingly empty.  After a time, Dad swooped in and landed on the birdhouse perch.  For the past two weeks that would have brought hungry and noisy babies to the hole searching for food.  This morning the hole was quiet.  Dad sat there very still, then looked in the house and all around.  No babies.  After 16 days of life, they have flown the coop.  He seemed a bit distraught and worried, yet I sensed calm satisfaction.

Ironically, today is Father’s Day.  I guess he can feel good about raising up his babies and helping them become independent and able to be on their own.

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Today is a day for Father’s to be honored and remembered and celebrated.  For some, today is a happy, joyous day.  Strong relationships with their father/children allow this day to be a day of celebration with or without.  Memories old and new surface and happiness fills the air.

For others, today brings great sadness and heartache.  Father’s lost…relationships tarnished or lost.  Hurt and regret and sadness cloud the day.  I can think of three friends that are grieving the loss of their fathers in the past year and for one, the past two weeks.  While good memories are there, they are buried deep underneath the sorrow and grief that hang low in the air right now.  For some, there are no good memories… only hurt and pain.

I think about the fathers that are suffering today.  Lost relationships with children.  Current relationships that are difficult and challenging… all the while testing that deep unconditional love of a father.  My heart is heavy for them today.

As I’m watching people around me rejoice and struggle, I’m brought to my knees with my own grief and sorrow and joy.  I am clinging to the hope for all of us… the hope of our heavenly father.  Our unconditionally loving father.  Our eternal father.

Much like the father bird this morning, He perches up in heaven watching out for us.  Coming back to see if we are there.  If we are okay.  He coaxes us out of the birdhouse when we need it.   He protects us when we are out and on our own.  He brings us food when we are hungry and can’t find it ourselves.  He is constant…

Earthly fathers can only give what they have been given.  For some that is greater than others.  The roll of a father is precious and difficult and bittersweet.  Today my heart is yearning for every father to feel loved and valued and honored and cherished… not only by earthly beings but also our father who art in heaven.

Spring Rains…

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We are teased with the spring sunshine and warmth.  Then the rains come. Spring rains… it’s necessary for the earth to open up and grow and flourish. Without it life would not bloom and blossom.  Life would wither and die.

I longed for the sunshine this morning as I awoke after a restless night.  Those first morning rays glimmering through the newly budding maple trees are stunning and life-giving.  They bring a feeling of hope to the day.  I can see God’s handiwork and loving touch as I look out into my yard.  Not today… it was raining.

At times, the spring rains can close in on us and feel like a dark shroud… if we let it.  I determined myself this morning to see the rain as a gift.  A gift to our earth.  A gift to my soul.

Rains wash away the dirt and grime, providing a fresh sheen on everything. They clear out the sky so when the sun does shine, it’s extra blue an clear!  It’s worth the wait.  The same way it refreshes our earth, it also refreshes my soul.  It’s a pause in my heart to let Jesus clear out the dirt and grime that have built up.  I’m a bit more hopeful as I await the blue sky that will peak through eventually.

In the meantime, I’ll hunker down and take this pause to rest and refresh as I listen to the drops hit the metal patio cover.  Hopeful for what is to come…

“God’s thunder sets the oak trees dancing a wild dance, whirling; the pelting rain strips their branches.  We fall to our knees – we call out, “Glory!”  (Psalm 29:9)