Grace · Healing · Hope · Prayers

It IS Well With Our Souls…

Uncertainty… fear… worry… pending crisis… facing the unknown.

We all struggle with these.  Some seasons feel more intense than others.  Where do you go when we are living in these uncertain times?  Whom do you call?  Do you face them alone?

This morning I awoke with some uncertain fears and worries on my mind.  I immediately found myself on the patio with a warm blanket and coffee… ready to spend some time praying and processing those things weighing heavy on my heart.  As I opened my ipad to head to Jesus Calling, a message popped up from a very dear friend.  She was on her knees crying out to Jesus with her own pending crisis… facing the unknown.  She was crying out to Jesus and asking me to join her in prayer.

Suddenly, my struggles were not my focus and I began to encourage her and intercede in prayer on her behalf.  The weight of my struggles lessened as did the weight of hers.

Why?

Because we both brought our needs to the Father and in that moment we shared the load.  We cut the burden in half – each taking a part.  It might be a silly analogy, but it works.  If your load is heavy and you give someone half… your load becomes lighter.

I went to the throne room on behalf of my friend and was able to leave some of my stuff there with hers!  My early morning quiet time was interrupted by what seemed a greater need.  Now, I’m not saying one need is greater than the other… what’s ours is ours.  We can’t compare.  But I was able to re-adjust my focus and get to the place of surrender without letting it overwhelm me or letting the enemy in. When we reach up and out, we push satan away and he has no room in our lives.  He has lost.

We think that when we go to God with our “stuff” that we are trying to win the battle.  Truth be told, the battle has already been won.  When there is a battle, the king sits on the throne, they don’t pace or run around fighting.  It’s the same for our King.  The battle has already been won and now Jesus sits at the right hand of His Father.  He has won the battle for us by dying on the cross.  Now we can know that peace… even amidst our battles.

By the end of our time together (via the ipad) this morning, my friend and I both felt more peaceful about our situations.  We joined together and brought them to the Father, and He, from His throne of grace, came down and comforted us both.  What a gift!

It is difficult, at times, to reach out when you are hurting.  My encouragement to you is just do it.  My friend and I have learned that we are always there and willing to share the burden of the other.  God always meets us and walks us through our valleys and gives us courage to endure what the rest of the day brings.  We come away knowing that no matter what… It IS well with our souls.

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Grace · Healing · Prayers · Seasons · Struggles · The Journey

Count Your Blessings… Literally!

count your blessingsYesterday I spent the afternoon saying goodbye to a very special man.  He spent 91 years on earth before graduating from this life.  The church was packed with young and old.  His quiver was full.  In the first few rows sat his wife of 64 years, his four children with their spouses, 13 grand children with their spouses and 7 great grandchildren.

It was a day to celebrate his life.  A day to remember all the ways he touched so many.  A day to say goodbye and shed some tears while at the same time laughing at the stories told.  A day that was special and touching and I was left with some treasures to add to my life… even after he’d gone.

Three of his grandchildren spoke beautifully on his behalf.  The first shared a profound message that he had imparted to her in the recent weeks before his passing.

Bill had been experiencing severe back pain which made it difficult to sleep or play golf.  One evening lying in bed, the pain had become almost unbearable.  He decided to put into practice what he had encouraged his family to do for many years… count his blessings.

Bill laid in his bed and began to count his blessings and think deeply about each one of them.  He started with his beautiful wife and thought about all of the glorious moments they had together.  That was one.  The pain seemed to diminish a bit, but was still there.  He continued to remember (and count!) each of his four children… then moving on to each of his grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Gradually as he remembered and counted, his pain continued to lessen.  When he had counted 68 blessings (yes, he counted and kept track of each one of them) his pain was completely gone.  He was able to sleep.  The wisdom that he shared with his family over the years really does work.  For Bill, it took 68 blessings to take away back pain!

Shortly after that he was diagnosed with bone cancer… the cause of the extreme pain.  God knew the excruciating battle that this husband, father and grandfather would fight, and graciously chose to take him home shortly there after.  What he left behind is a legacy that goes deep and has forever changed the lives of his family and those of us that have had the privilege of being a part of that.

Life throws us curve balls.  Our best laid plans don’t come to fruition.  We are told to be thankful amidst the difficulties… praise Him in the storm.  That is just what Bill did.  Lying in his quiet bed one evening near the end of his life, he counted his blessings – one after the other.  That simple act allowed him to focus on what was most important… not the pain that seemed daunting and overwhelming.  God pulled him above his suffering and allowed him to experience the joy of being thankful… and the power of counting his blessings.

 

 

Healing · Prayers · Seasons · Struggles · The Journey

Heavenly Royalty…

Saturday morning.  It’s early and my emotions are high.  I’m not really sure why.  I’m at the end of my 28 day commitment to better health.   Now I have to decide if I am worth continuing or will I go back to my old ways.  Yes, you read that correctly – “if I am worth continuing.”

For whatever reason and circumstances of my life, I’ve grown up to be one that thinks of you long before I think of me.  In that way of thinking I’ve missed the piece about me being so worth it that I should take care of myself.  No matter what I’ve done over the years, after a time, I sabotage my efforts.  Something in me just gives up and that’s that.

For the past year and a half I’ve been making more efforts to battle that and change.  It’s not easy when it’s been your MO for 50+ years.  I’m learning that I am worth it and I do deserve to be healthy and happy.

I began my morning worrying about all of the “stuff” that I need to be doing.  It was one of those early morning awakenings that came long before the sun was up.  I relented, got up and took care of one of them.  Whew!  One down… 500 more to go!  It’s a start!

Upon completion of my pre-dawn task, I sat down with a cup of coffee and my iPad.  My devotional is around Lent.  As soon as I began reading I was deeply moved.  It was comparing the Queen of England to Jesus.  She has had 62 years of pomp and circumstance.  Jesus did not have that.  He rode on a donkey with a soldiers cloak thrown over him and his crown… his crown was thorns.  The blood that ran down his face was that of a man… and of God.

“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”  (Luke 19:38)

His parade route ended at the Mount of Olives.  There was not a huge celebration with cameras and cheery on-lookers.  This is where He ascended into heaven.  His humility was replaced with glory.  Ten thousand times ten thousand angels were now at His side.  His Spirit filled the universe.  He was (and is) the ruler of all things.

Because of his death and resurrection, we became royalty.  I am royalty… heavenly royalty.

So, as I wept this morning over all of the things I have not accomplished… the things I continue to struggle with… the dreams that were left to die… the piece of my self-worth that I somehow missed… I was encouraged.  I am royalty… His royalty.  I AM worth it.  His death on the cross… those horrific six hours one Friday… they were for ME… and YOU…

Now as I venture into my day, I have a little more courage to face the battles that are ahead.  I know that there will be struggles and celebrations.  I know that I will doubt my worth again.  Temptations will knock.  Tears will fall.  I need to keep my eyes on what is important and His love and strength will continue to find me…flowing down from His thrown of grace.

Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies!  The whole earth is filled with his glory!
(Isaiah 6:3  NLT)

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Grace · Healing · Hope · Lessons Learned · life happens... · Prayers · Seasons · Struggles · The Journey

365 Days of Our Story…

It’s really just another day on the calendar.  12:01 AM and the new day begins.  364 days out of the year I’m sleeping when this transition takes place… completely unaware.  But there is that one time each calendar year I’m actually awake when that clock strikes midnight.  There’s fanfare and noise and kissing.  It seems to be magical.  Poof!  It’s not just a new day… it’s a new year!  Out with the old and in with the new.  Fresh start.  New beginnings.  Resolutions made to NOT make resolutions (oh that’s another blog for another day!).

I woke early this morning.  Oh, how I’d like to say it’s because I was so excited for the new year and all it has to offer.  Nope.  I woke because the heat came on, my bladder was screaming and my worry button turned on… right on schedule.  I was determined to stay in bed and sleep.  But alas, my brain won out and I had to get up.

           Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365 page book.  Write a good one.

These words are going around FB.  I posted the picture.  It’s kind of exciting!  There is that fresh start we all long for.  Of course I want to write a good one.  Who doesn’t?  I wanted that for 2014.  That story was full of heartache and struggle, while at the same time covered with grace.  Was it the story that I wanted to write?  Nope.  Do we ever get the story we hope for?  As a writer of sorts, the only way to get that story written exactly as I want is to write fiction… create what I want to happen.

Our life story is not fiction.  It’s true mystery, suspense, comedy and a love story.  Each of these genres weave in and out of our daily comings and goings.

My story for 2015 is not yet written.  It’s just beginning.  As I lay awake in the early hours this morning, I felt a heaviness and fear creep over me.  Suddenly, the hugeness of the next 365 days overwhelmed me.  Who?  What?  When?  Where?  Why?  How?  What if?  The idea of the vastness of what could happen seemed to press down on my spirit.

My life is full of messiness and clutter and unmet expectations.  I imagine that many of us might just feel the same way if we let ourselves truly be honest.  My life is also full of love and blessings and joy, but I let the heartache of 2014 overshadow those.

As I day in bed on this first day of the next 365 days, I began to pray… for that is the only thing that quelled the fear that was grabbing my heart and mind. I can’t look ahead on the calendar… I can only look at today… right now, for anxiety is born when we look at what has not yet happened.

                              “I can’t do it all, all the time,
                                              All I can do is
                                         Just. The. Next. Thing.
                                         Right now, at this time.  
                                               – Ann Voskamp

So my prayer for today and everyday of the next 365 is this…

Lord Jesus, thank you for the opportunity to write the story you have blessed me with.  God, I know my story will be full of mystery, intrigue, love, heartache, loss… for you never promised that fairy tale I have always longed for.  I pray that I will stay on the my path that you have placed me on… even if it seems difficult and doesn’t look like that of others.   Help me to see the surprises and joys and grace that you will place in front of me.  Give me just what I need at just the moment I need it… and let that be enough.  I pray this also for those you’ve put in my life – whether they be near or far.  May You be revealed to each of us in a deeper and greater way this year… and may we keep our eyes and heart wide open each day to see all that you have for us.  Let it be done… let it be so… in Jesus’ name.

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Christmas · Prayers · Seasons · The Journey

Mary Did You Know…

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Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.
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Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great, the Great I Am.
(Lyrics and music written by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene)
Christmas · Healing · Seasons · Struggles · The Journey

Honest and Real and Raw…

Christmas letters.  That one time each year that you can summarize all of the fabulous things that have happened in your life over the past 12 months in one cheery, perfect message!

Susie made the Honor Roll… again… and had the lead in the school broadway production.  Jimmy was voted MVP in each of his 5 Club Sports travel teams.  Your spouse is the best thing that ever happened to you!  The family Disney Cruise was the highlight as you celebrated 30 blissful years of marriage!  Even your family dog was top in his obedience classes.  Ahhh, life is good…. no, according to your letter… perfect!

Can you feel the sarcasm dripping from my words?  If you are a cheery Christmas Letter writer, I apologize.  There was once a time in my life that I was able to write a letter that summed it all up in a perfect package.  Once upon a time.  Then life began happening and I found it more and more difficult to write a letter…eventually stopping altogether.

Do you really want to know how one’s year has gone?  Do you really want the honest truth about each family member and their struggles?  I’m always amazed that on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of cheery Christmas paper, a story can be told that paints a picture of perfection… even when it hasn’t been.

Being that person that wears her heart on her shirt sleeve and is as transparent as one could possibly be, I am no longer able to compose a Christmas letter.  If I did, you would immediately remove me from your Christmas card mailing list and would want to “unfriend” me from sending one to you!  At this point in my life, an honest compilation of our year would be too raw and real.

I joke that FB is like a 27/7/365 Christmas letter!  Amazing family celebrations… fabulous vacations… beautiful home remodels… daily reports of the many things accomplished… perfect children and grandchildren.  I’m guilty at times, for I only like to post positive things or words that encourage.  I don’t generally air my dirty laundry publicly.  When you post a cheery family photo the comments come back that you look so happy and your life is so great!  Really?

My recently posted family selfie at the Thanksgiving table portrayed us all as smiling and happy!  It must have been a beautiful day!  Well, there were moments that were sweet and then there were the other parts that were amazingly stressful and hard.  But the family photo spoke a different story.

What do we want people to really know about us?  Do we want people to know that our life is difficult and full of heartache?  Or do we want people to think that we’ve got it all together?  When you ask someone how they are, do you really want to know?

This Advent season I’ve been thinking about the extraordinary thing that happened to an ordinary woman 2000+ years ago in that plain stable.  What would Mary and Joseph’s Christmas letter have said?  Her journey was anything but easy and beautiful.  They traveled long and far to find themselves without a place to rest while Mary gave birth.  No resort upgrades for them.  No room service or WiFi.  Raw, real and full of grace.  A few visitors.  No family selfie to remember the event.

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I’m desperately trying to find balance in this world of social media.  I want to share in the joys and celebrations of my friends and family without feeling “less than” when I’m done.  I did not take a fancy vacation this summer, but found myself posting river pictures every weekend in hopes that you would all see that my life is not a total loss!  How sad is that?  While my Thanksgiving day was not at all what I’d hoped for, I forced a family photo so you could all think that my life is “normal” just like yours.  It’s not.  It’s the life I’ve been blessed with, but it’s not like most others.  We struggle and grapple and pray… every day.  Christmas this year will not be what my heart longs for, but the photo’s I post of my decorations will lead you to believe otherwise.  Again… how sad is that?

My hope this Advent is that I will not try to be anything but who I really am.  My cries to my Savior are honest and real and raw. I long for honest and real and raw relationships with people.  As the year comes to an end, I will once again re-evaluate whether or not I want to continue with FB.  I long for that connection, but need to figure out how to stay connected without losing my perspective on life.

My prayer for all of us is that this season can be a time to be honest and real and raw with ourselves and those we love. I am going to believe in God’s grace for those things that may seem impossible.

Prayers · Seasons · The Journey · Uncategorized

Silent Night…

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace

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Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born

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Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth

(Josef Mohr, author / Franz Gruber, composer)

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Christmas · life happens... · Seasons · The Journey

The Brother and Sisterhood of the Family Manger Scene

Growing up, my favorite memory of Christmas was our nativity set that sat inside the fireplace.  Baby Jesus hid behind the manger until Christmas Eve when he was born!  The angel Gabriel delicately hung inside the fireplace from the dampner.  It was a treat to set up and then spend hours watching and admiring.

My mom graduated from this life in November of 2009, 55 years after the birth of this family treasure. She was the keeper of this beloved nativity from 1955 to 2007.  She then passed it to my sister Megan for her family to enjoy.   Megan kept it until 2011 when she passed it on to our other sister, Kate who held it until her passing in 2012. We then decided that this very special nativity needed to be shared among the remaining seven.  So began The Brother and Sisterhood of the Family Manger Scene.  My sister Mary enjoyed it last year and passed it on to me in the new year.

Today, I found it in the closet and suddenly was transported back in time.  I cleared a spot on the buffet and began to gently unpack each piece.  Emotion flooded as each player of the Great Story was revealed.  Some are in great condition and others are chipped.  The donkey is missing part of his ear.  I remembered hiding Jesus.  I pictured the straw that was spread around the family.

So, this year…59 years after it’s beginning, I am the honored holder of The Family Manger Scene.  It has such a special place that I am not bringing out my own nativity this year.  I will treasure each day that I get to look, remember and rejoice in what it represents.

Upon opening the first box, I found a card.  Inside is the running record of the keeper of the manger.  Accompanying the card was a hand written paper that my mom had written, penning the history of the nativity.  It took my breath away to see my mom’s printing.  She was famous for scrawling notes on anything that was loose and had room!  She loved to chronicle life and for that I’m so grateful.

So, here is the story of The Family Manger Scene

In the Fall of 1955, my Grandma Katie purchased the manger at Kauffer’s Bookstore and the basic characters. This included the German made 3 piece set of Mary, Jospeh and the Baby for $8.50.

Grandma Katie tried for years to start a manger scene for the family and my mom said NO.  There were little kids and they would want to handle and break the figures.  Finally, in the fall of 1955 she started it and purchased the above mentioned set.  Shortly after that, Grandma Katie passed away, not waking up on Thanksgiving morning.

After the funeral, a family friend who was unable to attend, sent a card and check to finish purchasing the manger scene figures.  So along came the shepherds for $1.75 each.  The Wise Men were a bit more spendy.  The Incense carrier was $2.75.  The kneeling wise man was $3.00. The standing man was only $1.50 because he was damaged.  The 3 little lambs made in Italy and were $0.75 each.  Only one of them made it this far in the journey.

Only my mom would keep track of the prices and remember them 50 years later.  She noted at the bottom of the handwritten memoir that she wrote in 2005, 50 years to the day that Grandma Katie passed away.

I’ve been missing my mom more than usual lately.  It comes with the time of year, as she passed away 5 years ago on November 11.  To find her handwritten note was special, touching and sad all at the same time.  I am so thankful for the little treasures that she left behind… even the scratched handwritten notes.

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Grace · Hope · Prayers · Seasons

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)

Healing · Hope · Lessons Learned · life happens... · Questions to Ponder · Struggles · The Journey

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)