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December ending

December ends and so does another year, and my mind runs amok with a multitude of thoughts.

The month ended in a frenzy of unexpected stress, unplanned events, things I didn’t see coming. In a way, it felt as if I were blindsided.

As I opened the Scripture this morning, seeking a word of comfort, my ribbon marker opened to Psalm 100, a short chapter I memorized as a child.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.
Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.
Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.

The familiar words of the King James Version came easily to my mind. I was refreshed with their ancient newness, words of assurance and love, reminding me to praise no matter what the day produces. I kept them in my heart throughout the day, believing that God is who He says He is and He meant every word that He preserved for me to read.

December was joyously spent with friends and family. Tables filled to the brim with few and many, shared meals or simply a cup of hot cocoa. Conversation was always the prime ingredient. It was beautiful, and I’m grateful for the gift of relationship that lasts all year long.

The holiday season was busy with a recital, a craft fair and birthdays added to the hustle of gift buying, cooking/baking, and opening our home every chance we got. I’m always down to the last wire getting the Christmas boxes to the post office in time for delivery to our dear ones. I have settled it in my head that I’m a late gift-wrapper. I can’t seem to do it ahead of time in spite of the wrapping paraphernalia setting out in readiness since the first of the month.

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In contrast, there were quiet days for contemplation, shared devotionals with Sweet William, time to sit by the fire and sip slowly of life. I appreciate days like that. Too much, my younger self spent all her days in frenzied activity. I’ve learned that slow is a good speed for me.

I re-read an old book, Two From Galilee by Marjorie Holmes. It’s a fictional account of Mary and Joseph in the days of their betrothal through the birth of Jesus. While much of the story was imagined, the Biblical details were accurate. I enjoyed thinking about the young couple, the love they might have shared, the criticism they endured from Mary’s unique pregnancy, and the hardships of a long trip to Bethlehem ending with birthing in a stable.

The drama came alive to me, a real story with real people living out an unusual calling. I was reminded that God’s ways are different, to say the least. His ways are higher, too profound and deep for me to completely understand. And yet, He is so near, so involved in history and our daily lives. He came to be with us so that we could know Him. Amazing.

And so we begin a new year. In an odd sort of way, I like endings and beginnings, the closing of a book cover only to open another, finishing a project with the satisfaction that I can move on to something else. It is the anticipation of starting fresh and new, like the untouched page of a new journal or notebook. It awaits the imprint of inked words.

As I reviewed my bullet journal and prepared the new one, I saw that I didn’t complete many of the major projects I’d planned to do this year.  Which presents me with a conundrum. If they were not a real priority, what shall I do with them in the coming year?

I haven’t decided yet. Perhaps I’ll just go like a butterfly, take each day as it comes, feel  for the wind of the Spirit and go where He is moving.

I kind of like thought.

Happy New Year 2019! 

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It was a holy night

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The small fiber optic tree on the corner table, a loan because I could not make the effort this year, twinkles its changing colors.  All is calm, all is bright.

Friends have graced table, us sharing joys and sorrows, memories and hopes mingled.  Learning to be content with less takes time. Learning that Jesus is enough is my calling.

In the season of giving gifts, I receive what God gives for it is alway perfectly suited, though sometimes it melts me. The molding and pressing and changing of a life into something more akin to the Son, it can be a painful process.  Yet there is no other way to reflect His light, His love.

Jesus is Lord.  Lord over all.  Lord of my days and my years.  Lord when I laugh and when I cry.  Lord and King, benevolent and gracious, always bestowing the gift of Himself.  The greatest present.  His presence.

He is the with us God, Immanuel.

The mystery was revealed and angels gazed in wonder.

The prophecy foretold was fulfilled.

 The Promise became living, breathing Infant.  Child.  Savior.

The Creator surrendered to the constraints of creation.

The Lawgiver fulfilled His own law.

The breath of God, His very Word was formed into flesh and tabernacled among us.

The unutterable name of YHVH was wrapped in a blanket and called Yeshua.  Jesus.

The 400 years of silence was broken by a newborn baby’s cry.

And thus . . .

The lost is found.

 The prodigal gets to go home.

The impure is cleansed.

 The sinner is called righteous.

The ugly is redeemed, clothed in beauty.

The war-torn is offered peace and a place of rest.

The needy receives grace.

The orphan is welcomed into the Father’s house and invited to call Him Abba.

It was a holy night.

This moment, it is holy still.

2013 Christmas (8)

2013 Christmas (9)

2013 Christmas (7)

Sunday grace

The stillness of early morning comforts me. The moon is brilliant in its fullness as Christmas morning slowly approaches. The coffee in my cup is hot and strong, and the fireplace warms away the chill. I sit in my rocker and breathe.

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I didn’t expect last week to be so busy, but it became that way. Sometimes I create my own busy, me with the lists and projects. We shared time and space with ones we hold dear, and the gift of presence was more than refreshing and a thing of beauty.

My thoughts have been frenzied with things still to do and with the pondering of Christmas present and Christmas past. Sweet William and I talked about years before, when our parents were alive, when our son was small, when the grandchildren lived in the house next door.

Memories are sweet. Longings are undeniable.

We’ve received prayer requests by text and phone in the last several days, these in addition to the names of people we pray for regularly. Those spending this year with one less person at their family gatherings have been on my heart. I feel their pain.

At breakfast on Thursday, the burden of empathy overwhelmed me so that I wept at the table. I reminded myself that I was not meant to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. I am meant to carry our needs to Jesus who is fully capable of bearing the burden, strong enough to hold each one in His hand. He is the fullness of God’s love come to earth for each of us, offering Himself to any who will receive.

And this is Christmas. Not whether I got the perfect present for everyone. Not whether the cards were mailed in time. Not whether we have an elaborate tree. Not whether my decorations are enough.

Christmas is Jesus. God’s love wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger for the world to behold, for the outcast and the kingly. God of all creation loved us so much that He made Himself small, vulnerable, and helpless, so that He would be accessible to all of us who are small, vulnerable, and helpless.

Jesus. He came to carry the weight of the world on His shoulders, to carry our sins to the cross, to carry us in our joys and our sorrows. He is Christmas.

O come let us adore Him.

Sunday grace.

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Sunday grace

Early morning I read a book of Advent, and Kathleen Norris gets my attention with this:

“When our lives are most barren, when possibilities are cruelly limited, and despair takes hold, when we feel most keenly the emptiness of life — it is then that God comes close to us.”

For those grieving at Christmas, whether it’s the first or the fifth year without a loved one, whether it is death taking its toll or a relationship gone wrong, whether the life in front of us is not what we expected at all and we dread the tomorrow, there is good news still.

We are not alone. God came wrapped in skin like ours to be with us.

His name shall be called Immanuel, the “with us God.”

Take heart, dear one. Jesus fills the emptiness, the longing, the lonely days. He gives joy in heartache, peace in trouble, provision in want.

His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Sunday grace.

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Little things

It’s the little things that can do me in sometimes.

The mini items on my daily to-do list. The niggling pain in my knees. Losing my keys again (or phone or purse). The small and inconsequential that builds and can become a mountain.

I recall the huge events in my life, the impact they had, how they changed me and life as I knew it. But the daily small can chip away like the persistent dripping on rock. Imperceptible until a depression in stone appears. And I see the shift.

Making the bed, preparing breakfast, doing endless mounds of laundry, shopping for groceries, paying bills, sweeping Maisie’s hair from the floor, running errands, filling the tank with gas. The mundane of an everyday existence can put me on overload.

Then I remember the small things that have greatly impacted.

  • A young woman who happened to come to a Bible study I was leading, how she has become a daughter of my heart.
  • A chance drawing of a name paired with mine, a home-school mamma who agreed to pray with me early mornings and has been my prayer partner for over a decade.
  • A doctor who moved his practice but kept Sweet William as his patient despite the incongruity of it, how he has been an instrument of healing.
  • The neighbors who bought the house next door, after renters came and went, and are like family to us now.
  • The appearance on a computer screen of a little tan and white dog with a flop ear, looking like she needed a home, her presence giving us laughter and love.

The small occurrences in our lives make big impacts, changing our story, making it a rich tapestry. We don’t see it at the time, how dailiness is weaving colors and design. Even the dark threads that we would rather leave out give depth and beauty to a life’s overall glory.

The story of Christmas is full of small things: an engaged couple; a long journey; houses and inns full to the brim; a rough feeding trough; an old man at Jerusalem’s temple looking for someone he hadn’t met.

Put together the small create a miracle. Prophecies are fulfilled.  Life as we know it changes forever.

There are miracles around us, wonders we are yet to see. Because some things take awhile. TIme reveals the potential of the events of a life, how they build upon each other to create a work of art. A life well lived.

Christmas can become full to the brim. One thing stacked upon another, filling the days too full to enjoy. Pause and take a breath to notice the small, the ways of wonder in and through it all. This day, this hour, this moment is packed with potential to change your life and those you love.

Christmas grace.

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The prayer

I do enjoy the re-reading of a good book. This morning, it is the account in Luke of a couple of old folks with whom I can identify. The words are anciently familiar, yet they are fresh like a sip of pure spring water on a parched tongue.

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I opened the Book to the story of Zachariah, the aged priest, who just so happened to be chosen on this particular day for a special assignment. He entered the Holy Place of the temple to offer incense on an altar that represented prayer and petition to God. The people were praying outside while the priest prayed inside.

As he offered up prayers, the smokey fragrance of incense encircling him, I wonder if Zacharia thought of that one prayer he had prayed again and again through his many years? That one prayer for blessing, for a child, a son from his loins?

Yet here he stood, an old man whose wife was equally well along in years, childless the two of them. Because Elizabeth was barren.

God’s timing for answering prayers are so often out of sync with what I envision.

The angel’s appearance was awesome, causing fear, but his announcement must have been confusing to Zachariah. “Your prayer has been heard.”

Which prayer was that? You mean the one I stopped praying years ago? The one I stopped expecting to be answered because I’m old now? The prayer that would have been on a timetable more suitable for me? That prayer?

Zachariah and I, we have things in common.

The prayers I am grappling with sometimes grip my heart with their urgency. I cry out to my Father, my eyes filling with tears, longing for an answer. And please, can it be today?

How many times have I read that God’s ways are not my ways, that His time is not my time? And yet, I want Him to do it according to my prescription and on my schedule.

Faithful Zachariah and Elizabeth had lived blameless lives, following the commands God gave to His people. Surely their prayers would have been answered. Undoubtedly their desire for a child would not have gone unheeded.

After so many years they must have become resigned. Head shakes and whispers behind their backs would have been hurtful. People can wonder when trouble beats us up and we are not being blessed in the conventional sort of way.

And yet, on this day in an old man’s life, the angel Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Almighty, was on a mission to proclaim wonderful news to Zachariah. “Your prayer has been heard.”

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Praying Hands by Albrecht Dürer

God declares in His word that my requests, petitions, prayers are heard. He answers when He gets good and ready, in His own sweet time, because He alone knows when all the pieces are in place.

So, my fellow traveler, don’t let discouragement weigh you down. Don’t give in to doubt and unbelief. Throw off the lie that you are forgotten and forsaken. Keep believing God. Keep bowing the knee. Keep trusting in a faithful God who hears your every plea and preserves your tears in a bottle.

Believe that your prayer has been heard. In the fullness of time, and according to the perfect plan of God who does all things well, there will be an answer.

And it will be spectacular.

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Revised and reposted from December 2018

Breathe

It’s been a full-plate kind of week, me reminding myself to breathe. We’ve had places to go and people to see, things to do and plans to finish. I’ve been up and down the stairs of our house too many times to count.

My morning devotion reminds me I am blessed. Blessed to be a blessing.  I know this in my head. Sometimes my heart forgets.

In the season of holiday frenzy, we tend to pour out, giving gifts of time and energy, until we are depleted and empty of soul.

“You must feel the fullness of your own pitcher before you trust the pouring out of yourself,” says Ann Voskamp.

Running on fumes, I call it. Sweet William reminds me to fill the gas tank in the little black Honda before it gets to a quarter tank. It’s not good for the engine, he says.

Running on fumes is not good for me either. I need to refill, refuel, reignite with the passion of love that is true Christmas.

I cannot face the day well if I have not first faced my Savior. He came to bless me with His presence.

Immanuel, God with us.

And His presence is the present I most need, the gift I want more,  the one thing I cannot live without.

In the still dark of early dawn, I quietly rest and inhale Him who is life. I absorb the Holy Word and breathe in His truth. His peace, beyond all understanding, fills my lungs. Before the day’s agenda unfolds, I am assured that I am adored and redeemed, chosen and called. I am blessed beyond counting. Blessed to be a blessing.

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  — John 20:21-22

The Creator breathed into Adam’s lungs and he became a living soul. Jesus breathed on the disciples and said “Receive.” The Holy Spirit, the very breath of God, has come to me, to be with me, to live in me, to give me power to serve and be a blessing.

I remind myself to breathe.

Christmas grace.

 

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