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Turn Down the Volume

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We have all done it!  I have for sure and for certain!  You know what I am talking about — don’t be coy!  That time, or many times, while we are driving — especially when we are driving somewhere we have never been before — the radio is playing and we are doing our best to read the street names — admit it, you turn down the radio volume or you turn it off altogether.  Ha!  Pinned ya, didn’t I?

Why do you think we all do that when we are looking for a street?  Does the volume of the radio heighten or diminish our ability to see where we are going?  I know…maybe our brain works better when there isn’t much noise around us to interfere with what we need to be concentrating on at that time.  Maybe it is both or maybe it is neither — I think it ought to be studied by great minds…or maybe not!  In any event, I have a theory!

When we are out driving, a lot is going on around us…there is a lot of traffic…the radio is playing loudly…maybe the kids are in the backseat complaining that so and so is touching them…it has already been a hectic day, and now you cannot find the street you are  seeking to turn on to.  Yeah, turning the volume down on the radio can sure help sometimes — it helps to unclutter our brain and free us to look for the crazy street sign.  It works…doesn’t it?

It can be true in our lives with many things.  The New Year has brought with it long lists of things that need to be done.  Many made resolutions to help them jump ahead of the New Year and be prepared for this year!  Many of our government workers are clamoring to make the ends meet — mortgage payments, insurance payments, tuitions, oh — and that sustaining element called food.  Maybe you are one of them and don’t see any end in sight and that coupled with all of the other items on your 2019 task list — well, it gets loud and chaotic.  Oh, I do understand — how did a brand new year, with no mistakes in it yet, become so demanding and unrelenting so quickly??  Surely this was not supposed to happen!

Well, when we cannot change the circumstances of all that is buzzing around us — when we just cannot seem to find that next turn — God provided a way for us to turn down the volume!  How, you ask?  I’m glad you asked!

In Psalm 46:10 (ESV), it says:

Be still, and know that I am God.

The still in Hebrew is raphah and it means to cease, leave, or stay.  God gave us that out so that we could come and rest for a bit in Him from all the striving and running around.  In fact, if you look at the New American Standard Bible, it says, “Cease striving and know that I am God.”  He understands that life can become quite messy and loud and overwhelming and so He gave us permission to stop…cease…be still from the messiness and loudness.

However, God did not just give us permission — He gave us His example!  In the beginning…you know the account…God created!  Then when He had finished His Creation, He rested!

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Genesis 2:1-3 NASB)

There it is — God turned down the volume — the Creator of all set aside a full day to rest from His work!  What a wildly, all-knowing God who knew that we would need rest and therefore He set an entire day aside for us to find it!

Each day, set time aside to be in His Word — resting in His love — so that you can make the next turn.  Set aside a day of Sabbath rest — it is a wonderful time to draw closer to God through Christ — after all, Christ became our Sabbath rest.  Turn life’s volume down and cease your striving, dear one, and rest in Him!

So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. (Hebrews 4:9-10 NASB)

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Tradition, Loss, and Loneliness ~ Unwrapping Hidden Blessings

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Christmas cards are flying in by the dozens — people are beginning to travel toward family — the kids are getting excited with cousins visiting — it’s all so enchanting…unless you are alone.

Loneliness for many can be most profound during this season of celebrating traditions and joining our hearts with family near and far.  The tinsel on our trees glistens a little less — packages don’t have the same vibrance, if there are even any at all — gatherings aren’t the same and attending gatherings can multiply the absence of that one, or many, like the earth blanketed in a new fallen snow.  It can leave you shattered like a Christmas Tree ornament that has dropped to the floor.

I have felt a bit of this loneliness during the holidays with all of my grandparents and parents now gone.  I still have my sweet husband and my son and there are my husband’s parents — but the pain of loved ones passing is felt quite sharply during this season.  I miss the trips to Virginia — the exuberance of the cold, bite in the air, as we pass from Georgia to South Carolina and then North Carolina.  Seeing the Virginia “Welcome” sign is almost more excitement than I can bear and I can feel the thrill of it in my heart even now.  Those times are gone, but there is still more!

The more that I have found is not about me!  It is about giving someone who is much lonelier than I am, and filling their heart once again with the blessings that Christmas can bring.

Each year we journey to Astor and get a lady (we call Nana), who is 90 years young and bring her into our home to celebrate Jesus with us.  We’ve been doing this for more than 20 years.  She comes early and we take her home late.  We eat, sit and talk, we open our gifts…our hearts are full because she allowed us to bring her into our home.  As we make the journey back to Astor, my heart truly seems overwhelmed by the love that was enjoyed and how it warmed our home.

We all have traditions and we all suffer loss.  It is okay to make new traditions…not just for yourself, but for others.  Nana promptly writes me a letter a few days later and speaks of the memories we have made with her — her love for us — her salved loneliness through our love…which would not exist if it were not for Christ.  We love because He first loved us!

We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19 NASB)

Jesus came packaged in a manger to bring us salvation and the forgiveness of sin — the greatest gift!  It is only right that we would extend that gift to others through our love for Him!

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I encourage you to add new traditions to your life…even if the old ones haven’t yet passed away.  There are those who long for another Christmas around a family table, the smell of pine and cinnamon, and the joy of having love envelope them once again.  You don’t need to worry about replacing their loss — just fill it and with the greatest Gift of all, Christ!!

A blessed Christmas to you!!

 

 

 

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Overlooking the Beauty of a Dandelion

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Walking through a field of Dandelions, I am caught off guard by their intrensic beauty and delicateness.  Afterall, aren’t they just weeds — probably most believe that is all the are really?  However, not today…today I see so much more!

How beautiful they all seem growing side-by-side in a field of overgrown grass!  There lovely colors of white and yellow peeking up through the blades of emerald, as if to shout, “Look at me…look at me!”  As I quickly stoop low to pluck them out of the place they are so firmly planted, some wisk off into the wind — I’m caught off guard by how fragile they seem.  So then, ever more gently and with great care, I gather them into my fist — admire all that they are and seem — then my heart is reminded of people…the overlooked ones…the fragile ones…those who are frequently mowed down without a second thought or glance.

Many of us feel that way from time-to-time; don’t we?!  Oh, that girl who has looked in the mirror and wondered, “Will anyone every notice me…love me…cherish me?”  The one who feels she is pushing up between the cracks of sidewalk — feeling stepped on — crushed.  It certainly crushes the spirit to feel so unobserved by others!

I think many of us feel like that Dandelion trying to desperately to be noticed and picked like a Daisy or a Rose.  We all want to feel valued and loved and looked for in life.  I know I do!

I am reminded of Jesus’ Words in Matthew — Words of comfort and love:

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers; most of which are never even seen; don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Matthew 6:30-34 MSG) (emphasis mine)

I am so thankful that He cares so tenderly for me!  I am not…you are not a weed that God has overlooked.  He sees you —- He sees you pushing up through the cracks!  He understand your struggles and your fears.  He will see to it that if you “steep your life in Him” that you won’t miss out.

This life of ours is very short, compared to eternity.  Before you are plucked out of the earth, please surrender your life to Jesus!  He died on Calvary…shed His Blood to Redeem you — He will forgive your every sin and save you!  You are worth so very much for Him to Redeem your soul for eternity.  Steep your life in Him!!

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Pine Needles, Hot Chocolate and Home

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Christmas whispers of home — we all long for those familiar sounds and smells and love.  I received a text message today from a dear friend of mine, April.  She sent me a picture of their Christmas Tree — all decorated and ready for the celebration to come!

April shared that she and her family went out to the forest and brought that tree home…I’m sure the  smell of pine and trail left of pine needles was a welcome grace to her.  You see, they used to live here in Florida — missionaries to this hot, tropical paradise — but April never really acclimated to Florida.  She absolutely hated the heat — hated the lack of season changes — missed her home up north.  Oh, she served faithfully here — jumping in and being and loving and “suffering” for the Lord…smile!  However, this was never home for her and now they have returned to the Land of Winter!

All of this made me homesick for my own “northern country” of Virginia.  My heart began longing for the cold weather, the smell of fresh pine needles, hot chocloate, and family.  I wonder, if like April, if I were allowed to go home, would I be more content — happier — at peace, than I am here in Sunshiney Florida??  Maybe, but probably not!

I am homesick for another place — my real Home, Heaven!  I can almost smell the aroma of peace and love and wholeness that Heaven promises.  My mind wanders a little and I tiptoe into the “I wonders!”  Will there be the scent of pine needles, hot chocolate, Cinamon, or even Nutmeg?  I remember hearing a story on a Gaither video about a little child that asked her Daddy, “Will my puppy be in Heaven?”  The father wasn’t quite sure how to answer such a question and so he said, “Honey, you imagine Heaven the best that it can be and I promise it will be so much more!”  What a wise and discerning answer to offer that child, as he didn’t promise what he could not know, yet afforded HOPE!  No, I’m sure Heaven will not have these things of human wont, but it does offer us something far better.

What will there be?  Jesus — there will be Jesus!  His glory will illuminate this heavenly Home.  Oh, Scripture tells us a bit of Heaven’s glory — streets of gold, the crystal sea, and so much more that we cannot even image.  In fact, John told us this in Revelation:

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. There will no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and His bond-servants will serve Him; they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads. And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.
(Revelation 22:1-5 NASB)

Oh, that will be glory!  As long as I sojourn here on this ole’ earth, my heart will long for that Heavenly place, but I’m so thankful that God, in His infinite wisdom and sovereign love, allowed April and me the smell of fresh pine needles, snow, hot chocolate, and most of all love and relationship with kindred spirits.  Merry Christmas, April!

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Gingerbread Houses and Hot Apple Cider

I don’t know about you, but the pressure and rush of the holidays leaves me feeling a bit depleted and often inadequate. I allow myself to get caught up in what Ms. So-and-So is doing…her beautiful decorations, her picture-perfect meals, and her charming family photographs. I see them all and I tell myself that I cannot compare or measure up to Ms. So-and-So!

Frankly, social media does not help with these feelings of inadequacy and self-condemnation.  You know what I’m talking about!  Ms. So-and-So is on all the current social media sights posting her sublime life for everyone to see.  (I’ve been guilty of this myself!)    Wanting to seem like we have it all together with our pefect children and adoring husbands is quite the temptation.  Honestly, who wants to post pictures of dirty floors, a sink full of dishes, the kids bickering over the last piece of fruit, or the perpetually late husband coming in the door two hours after he was due home??  I’ll raise my hand first…not me!

How do we overcome this need to impress and compete with Ms. So-and-So?  How do we live authentically among the mess and noise and chaos that constantly presses in on us?  How do we overcome that staggering, self-imposed obligation to please?

Well, first we have to understand who we are trying to please!  Who am I trying to impress and why?  I posit that it is not the Lord, but those millions of people on social media, who may or may not know me.  Why do I do this to myself?  Probably because I want to be liked, thought well of, and respected.  Oh, the conviction I feel for trying to set myself up on the pedestal of popularity!

I sought the Lord — I asked Him to help me change this desire to please others and not Him.  He swiftly turned me back to His Word…chastising, correcting, and then restoring me to Himself.

The Apostle Paul challenges me to be an imitator of him, just as he also is of Christ.
(1 Corinthians 11:1 NASB)    Over in Ephesians, Paul exhorts: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma.” (Ephesians 5:1-2 NASB)  A “fragrant aroma” to the Lord.  Oh, yes, please Lord!  Help me to set aside myself so that my life can be an offering and a sacrifice to You as a fragrant aroma.

Remember this:  Ms. So-and-So is trying to please self and the unknown  masses herself.  Ask God how you can encourage her to be still and allow her life to be fragrant to Him.  I encourage you also, beloved…don’t get so caught up in the aromas of Gingerbread Houses and Hot Apple Cider that you have lost who you are in Christ Jesus.  Make your home this Christmas season warm with love…let the Gingerbread and Apple Cider be a beautiful reminder that you are His…your family is His…that is a fragrant aroma to Him!

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Thin Patches of Ice

It’s so easy to go along not realizing the danger you are in or about to face.  Often life will give us subtle warning signs…other times there are glaring warnings…DO NOT ENTER, DANGER, or DO NOT GO BEYOND THIS BARRIER.  Those are the easier ones to avoid, but what of the ones we never saw coming?

When I lived in Virginia there were times I had to drive to work or the store after a hard snow or ice storm.  I would go slowly and keep a good distance between my car and those around me.   However, there was a time or two that I would hit a patch of ice — you really could not even see it — your car would slide — it really wasn’t that difficult to panic and over correct.  Well, usually the only place you would wind up then is in the ditch!  I tried very hard to anticipate the thin patches of ice, but there were times it would sneak up on me and catch me off guard.

Life is that way, too!  We putz along taking care of the endless details that need our attention.  There are bills to pay, kids to feed, letters to answer, laundry to wash, and all of the other busy-ness of the day-to-day grind.  I don’t know about you, but I can get so caught up in all there is to get done in the time allotted me that I will not pay attention to the catastrophe I am about to encounter.  Before I know it…I’m flat on my face and stunned by the impact!  I cry out to the Lord, “How did I miss it?  How did I not see this coming directly toward me??”

I am learning to prepare for these thin patches of ice by surrendering my busy-ness to Him.  I’m not much unlike dear Martha running around with all the preparations of putting supper on the table and not realizing the importance of sitting at the Lord’s feet and listening to Him.

Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38-42 NASB)

When I am distracted with all that is going on around me and not keeping my eyes on Him, I’m bound to hit those thin patches of ice…I’m bound to be planted on my face…I’m bound to find myself grumbling as Martha did about Mary.  It is imperative that I not distract myself with busy-ness — I must be like Mary and choose the good part…Jesus said, “[It] shall not be taken away.”

Yes, there will still be times that things catch me off guard and throw me for a loop!  However, when my focus is on Him, those times will be less traumatic…there will certainly be a lot less time in the ditch!

My prayer for you during this season of busy-ness is that you will take time to be still and meditate on Him.

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Grief Packaged — Memories Unpackaged

Along about this time of year — when joy and goodwill exude from the masses…shopping carts are filled, Christmas cards are written, Menus are planned, Christmas Trees are dressed in their finest, and packages wrapped with love are placed under them — my heart “catches.”

Oh, I do get lost in the magic of Christmas — I adore the reasons we celebrate in the first place ~Jesus~ and I love to watch my son get caught up in the decorating and lights.  His requests for favorite dishes never escape my notice and well, the glimmer in his eye captures my heart!

However, a tsunami of grief breaks over my soul and a deep longing settles within me.  I became a bit more acutely aware of that grief today when I was messaging with my friend, Shelby, in Virginia.  We were sharing our Thanksgiving plans and the putting up of Christmas Trees — admittedly what is supposed to be a joyful conversation — but for both of us it turned into tears.

For Shelby and me, our parents have passed away.  We reminisced on how our Momma’s would put into our stocking an Orange, an Apple, some Walnuts, and for me a big Candy Cane….there were other little things, but that’s what Shelby and I have in common…two Virginia girls whose Momma’s loved a similar way.  The specialness of what was is now gone and we are grown and we have our own children and grandchildren to share all that love with during this Season of rejoicing over family.

How, though, do we package the grief — the loss?  As the tears flood in, I must confess that I haven’t quite figured that part out.  God sewed into my life such sweet and kindred relationship with my parents — a tenderness not found in another soul or relationship.  He wove a lifetime of memories and experiences that cannot be replaced — mimicked, yes — not replaced.  Parents are afforded a unique relationship with their children — it is honestly irreplaceable.

Shelby said, “Oh, I didn’t mean to make you cry!”  Oh, she didn’t make me cry at all  — the truth is that I was on the precipice of tears for days.  She only identified with my soul — God allows people to do that — so we have Christ-like relationships in good friends…sisters — we reflected what was in our hearts —- grief, joy, and Jesus!

I think we can both say, with the same assurance of Job:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21 NASB)

It’s not easy to say goodbye — its difficult to journey on without those familiar, kindred spirits when the aromas and sounds and laughter invade the home — but we must — for our good and for His glory!

~Soli Deo Gloria 

 

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