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Posts Tagged ‘Encouragement’

I was having an especially fun moment on Facebook.  A friend had posted a video of the Christmas story as told by children.  Just as a wisp of Christmas spirit began to materialize inside of me, the very next status update in my feed stopped me cold.

Another friend posted that a local family lost several of their own.  A father, mother, their two young children and the family dog all perished in a single engine plane crash on a freeway in New Jersey.

I don’t know for sure if this Christmas is different than any other, but to me it feels… I don’t know… darker.  So many people I know are facing serious financial difficulties.  Others are experiencing their first Christmas without a loved one.  Still others are dealing with illness.  So much sadness…

I am left wondering how to reconcile this bittersweet dichotomy.  What am I supposed to feel?  I cannot steel myself to the pain of others.  Nor can I shut out the promise of Christmas. 

I sense that I am not alone in my emotional confusion.  Are you there, too?

At some point, we have to choose where we put our focus.  If I may make a sweeping generalization, I would say that most of us, given the choice, would prefer to relish the wonder of the season.  (Have you ever noticed how people thrill to the lights at Christmastime?  As beings created by the Light, we cannot help but be drawn to it.)

The darker the world gets, the more Christmas means. 

A savior is coming to pull us out of the mess of our own making, to wipe away every tear, to make right all that is wrong. 

In this promise, we can place our hope:

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned…  For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.”  (Isaiah 9:2-7, NIV)

 

 

Elsewhere on the blog: A last-minute gift idea for elementary school age children.

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I admit it.  I don’t do change well.  This is something God and I are working on, and He has given me many beautiful opportunities to trust that change, though it may involve letting go, is not in and of itself a bad thing.

We had our first frost this week.  Sunday morning, I peeked outside to see if anything in our garden had survived.  My heart sank a little when I saw the leaves of our summer basil blackened and once robust squash leaves looking like limp dishrags on sticks.  How I loved our summer garden!  And now, it is gone.

But the first frost of the season also means harvest.  That same day, I plunged my gloved hands into the soft earth and pulled out the sweet potatoes that will soon be on our Thanksgiving table.  It was a delightful, subterranean treasure hunt.

sweet potatoes!             

This is only one example of the changes I have seen this fall.  Though the letting go always makes me wistful, I am trying harder to look ahead – to smile for what was, instead of crying that it is no longer.

There was a time in my life when change, especially the endings of things, would have sent me into all-out panic mode.  Not anymore.  I have learned to trust the hand that turns the seasons.  I have lived long enough to see that things have a way of working out.  I have grown in faith enough to know that there is treasure under the surface of whatever change I may be facing. 

I feel that I should pause here to offer a caveat.  I don’t mean to suggest that grieving is wrong.  Quite the contrary.  Grieving is normal, healthy and biblical.  I am referring here to day-to-day, season-to-season, year-to-year changes which may cause discomfort, but do not devastate.  In either case, a little faith goes a long way to soften the blow.

What changes are you facing this fall?  Do you welcome change, or do you fear it?  Do you see the loss or the harvest? Perhaps most importantly, do you believe that whatever change God allows you is ultimately for your good?  (It is, you know.)

There is a season for everything.

There is a reason for everything.

Trust now the hand that turns the seasons…

…and leave the reasons to Him who is for you. 

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1, NIV)

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You know the amazing idea that hit you while you were stuck in traffic?  Do you remember the one that splashed you in the face during your shower?  How about the one that woke you in the middle of the night and kept you from sleep? 

Pay attention to those.  They are pearls from heaven.

Whenever I have created something good – whether it is a piece of music, a blog, a recipe, a children’s book, whatever – I am keenly aware that the idea did not come from ME.  I am merely a conduit for God. 

In the case of music, a melody will wind its way into my thoughts, and I simply take dictation.  It’s as if I’m back in Music Theory class with Dr. Rosenkranz as he plunks out a bit of song on the piano for the class to write out on staff paper.  When a melody pops into my head, I know it is God, the Composer, dropping a pearl from heaven.

Sometimes, I sit at the piano, hands folded, and I’ll ask, “What key?”  A key and meter flash in my mind.  I place my hands on the ivory, and music that had not existed on earth until that moment is born.  I am certain the music already existed in heaven, but it won’t be heard on earth until I catch the pearl.

But here’s the kicker.  So many times, I catch a pearl… and then let it drop to the ground, unrealized.  I determine that no one wants to hear the melody, or read the books “I” write.  I decide that the idea came from me, and therefore, isn’t very good.  I listen to negative self-talk about success being meant for others, not for me.  I give audience to the enemy’s whispers of doom, gloom and doubt.  In so doing, I become the wicked servant in the parable who buried his master’s treasure rather than expanding it for his glory.  (Matthew 25)

Dropping pearls is dangerous.  If you drop them too many times, or fail to catch them at all, you may not be trusted with them anymore.

So… have you had any great ideas lately?

Treat them with care.

They are pearls from heaven.

 catching pearls from heaven

P.S.  Did you notice the new blog title?  It hints that there are changes (i.e. additions, not subtractions) ahead for this blog.  I caught a pearl!  🙂

-wwh

 

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For recovering perfectionists like yours truly, failure is a curse word.  Failure is at best unthinkable, and at worst, catastrophic.  To fail at something would mean that I, personally, am a failure.  But this week, I failed at something – and it was good.

As part of my no-more-whining-about-the-way-things-are approach to life, I signed up for a few sessions with a personal trainer.  Stacey Parrish, my trainer, is a body building champion.  Nothing jiggles on her.  Nothing.  Dear readers, meet Stacey:

 

staceyparrish

 

By contrast, her client is a middle-aged mom who has indulged her affection for chocolate chip cookie dough a few too many times.  Many things jiggle on me.  (Don’t worry.  I will spare you the photo of me in a bikini.  Wait.  I don’t even own a bikini.)

In our most recent weight-lifting session, I tried so hard that I failed.  That is just what Stacey was hoping for.

“Failure is good!” she said.  “That means that you have worked the muscle as far as it will go.  You’ve reached muscle failure.” 

Apparently, the point at which the muscle fails is the point at which the magic starts to happen (i.e., more lean muscle mass, less flab).  I may want those weights to move with all my might, but they will not – until Stacey actually helps me to lift them.

This happens in life, too, doesn’t it?  We try so hard.  We work ourselves sick.  We chase after things, people, dreams, careers and perhaps even ministry.  And sometimes, in spite of all our trying, we fall flat on our faces. 

We fail.

But like muscle failure, this is when the magic happens!  When we at last come to the end of ourselves, God is there to do the heavy lifting. 

There is no such thing as failure to Him.  Everything is under His supreme control.  The moment we feel our weakest is the moment He really goes to work.

Have you failed at something?  Then give thanks!  Thank Him for what He is about to do in your life.  Thank Him for being there to lift the burden.  Thank Him in the midst of failure.

Then sit back, and watch the magic unfold.

 

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”  (1 Corinthians 1:25, NIV)

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I checked off another birthday this week.  This one was difficult to accept.  It wasn’t a milestone birthday.  It’s just that upon examination, my life isn’t what I thought it would be by this point.  I am not who I wanted to be.

I asked Hubs, “What’s so great about being this age?  Please tell me.  I need to focus on something positive.”

Sweet thing that he is, he tried to comfort me with talk of wisdom and depth.  Somehow, those perks seemed worth little when weighed against drawbacks like wrinkles, gray hair and sagging body parts.

So I had myself a good, long think.

I thought about how I spent my youth borrowing against the future.  I couldn’t wait to get to the next thing.  I always wanted to look older.  Never satisfied…

I thought about how that shifted.  Around age forty, I started looking back.  I missed the trappings of youth.  I wanted to look younger.  Never satisfied…

Like a giant light bulb illuminating my pity party, it hit me: 

Why not just be satisfied with this moment, this age, this life right now – just as it is? 

What if wishing to be somewhere else, or pining for my youth, or nursing my dissatisfaction is sapping my energy and joy? 

What if all this “wishing for different” is really me playing the victim?

Gasp.  Shudder.  Ew.  Gross. 

As folks say in the south, “I tell you what.”  (Contextual translation:  “I am so over that.”)  It is time for some changes. 

I don’t have God’s perspective, so I’m leaning on His.  I have laid out my every activity and attitude before Him and asked, “Is this what You would have for me?”  The answers have been surprising. 

He is renovating.  I am an observer, watching Him work.  As the drywall dust settles, I see glimpses of a new creation.

And what freedom!  I am no longer a powerless woman having a pathetic mid-life crisis.  I am His project, which means I am fully empowered to move forward – with boldness.  I can say “no, thank you” to things which might be burdensome, and give a resounding “yes!” to things which He has determined are right for me.

Birthdays need not be a funereal passing of another year. 

They can be the start of something wonderful – a birth-day, a cause for celebration.

Today can be a birth-day.  It’s all in the attitude.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:  The old has gone, the new is here!”  (2 Cor. 5:17, NIV)

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I almost quit blogging.  I came face to face this weekend with what I thought was a disparity between being “Christian enough” to have a faith blog… and where I am.

I joined 649 other women from 44 states and 4 countries in Concord, NC for a conference of Christian women speakers, writers and ministry leaders.  It is a conference for those who are serious about spreading the gospel.

Then there is me.

I came away from the conference feeling totally inadequate to speak in His name.  Ill-equipped.  Not Christian enough.  If I tell you what reasons I thought others might find me unworthy to write a faith blog, you might laugh at me.  Or perhaps you’d be convinced to unsubscribe from this blog immediately.  Either way, here goes:

  • I do not raise my hand(s) in church during songs.  I like praise songs, but do you know what really sends me over the edge?  This music right here.  I am incapable of listening to this without being moved to a puddle of reverent, emotional, holy adoration.  A Bach fugue on a giant organ in the hands of a master organist sends me, too.  (I also like Alison Krauss, Sting, Ella Fitzgerald, Dianna Krall, Colbie Caillat, etc., etc., and I happen to think that Eminem is outrageously talented, even though he cusses too much.)
  • I am often confused about the man/God Jesus.  Sometimes I even doubt the whole trinity thing.  Yup.  Thomas and I would’ve been friends.
  • I love a good wine/food pairing.  I also like a margarita with Mexican food, and a good beer with a burger.
  • I have gay friends, some of whom are the godliest people I know.
  • Every so often, a colorful word will escape my lips.  (You can take the girl out of Montana…)
  • I do not read my Bible every day.

Well?  What do you think?  Are you ready to hit the unsubscribe button?  A few days ago, I would have if I were you, too.  But let me ask you this: what makes someone “Christian enough” to share their faith?  And does our imperfection make us unworthy to speak in His name, or does it make Jesus approachable?

If you unsubscribe, I’ll understand.  Really.  No hard feelings.

If you stick around to read my chicken scratches, please forgive the areas where I may be less faithful than you. 

I pledge to you that I will be authentic in what I write.  Otherwise, why would you believe me when I say that there is a God who loves you wildly, beyond all reason, beyond our puny human understanding, beyond what you can imagine?

Nobody has all the answers.  Nobody is without mark or blemish.  If you have ever felt that you are not “Christian enough” to go to church, to speak His name, to ask for His help, I would ask you – no, implore you – to think again.

Certainly, you are not perfect.

But most certainly, you are enough.

“Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!'”  (John 20:27-28, NIV)

 

 

 

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If you happen to be taking a stroll through my neighborhood on any given summer morning, you will probably see me working in the garden.  (This Montana-grown, transplanted-to-the-south gal has to have her hands in the dirt!)  While I’m working, God often takes the opportunity to teach me.  This summer, I thought it might be fun to pass on some of what I’m learning, à la mini-Bible study, from the garden.  Grab a shovel or a cup of coffee and join me in my garden!

  _________________________

 

I love sunflowers.  It is impossible for me to look into their cheerful faces and feel depressed.  I have several varieties of sunflowers near the entrance to my garden to set the mood.  My garden is my happy place!

The other day, I sat on the steps among the sunflowers, just to enjoy them.  And I had a few observations:

1.) Sunflowers actually turn their heads as the day goes by to follow the sun.

2.) The goldfinches that visit our yard sit on them and peck the seeds out for breakfast.

3.) Bees and butterflies are attracted to sunflowers, too.

4.) Sunflowers make people happy just to look at them.

Hmm.  Maybe I can learn from this…

What if I kept my face to the Son all day long

 sunflower sunrise

 

Maybe it would change me.  Maybe I could attract others by being a reflection of what (whom) I follow. 

 sunflowers and bees

 

Maybe my life would produce fruit, which would, in turn, feed others. 

 seeds

 

Maybe people would be uplifted by being around me.  Maybe they would look for the Son, too.

 others

 

Digging deeper:  Is this analogy too simple for you, or just simple enough?  Have you ever known anyone who has such a faith that it seems to radiate from their face?  Could you grab some for yourself?

Let’s pray:  Dear God, sometimes it feels like everyone else has their face to the light, and I’m groping around in the dark.  Help me to seek your face all day long so that I may be a reflection of your glory.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

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